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Kaolin As Nigeria’s Untapped Goldmine



Nigeria has large deposit of Kaolin scattered in different states of the country but yet to be fully exploit. In this report, NKECHI ISAAC examines the money spinner left to waste away.

The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has highlighted the numerous benefits of Kaolin production in Nigeria, saying local production will not only reduce capital flight but also create employment and add to the nation’s economic development.

The name kaolin was derived from a hill in China (Kao-ling) where it has been mined for centuries. Kaolin is a weathering product of silicate rock, the naturally occurring hydrated aluminum silicate which may be white, yellowish-white, earthy, nonporous and odourless to dull material having a plastic touch and a slightly oily feel.

The chemically inert nature of kaolin makes it a versatile industrial mineral with wide applications in the cosmetics, pulp & paper, agro allied industries, chalk, paints and in pharmaceutical formulations.

It has been reported in large quantities in Katsina, Plateau, Bauchi, Ogun, Ondo, Niger, Oyo, Kwara, Benue, Enugu and Ekiti states of the country. 

Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, the director-general of RMRDC, Dr Hussaini Doko Ibrahim said the annual national demand for kaolin had been estimated at over 360,000 tonnes while local production was only about 125,000 tonnes, leaving a gap of about 235,000 tonnes, an indication of the underutilization of this natural resource locally.

Ibrahim stated that the pharmaceutical subsector alone has a national demand of 128.8MT while current supply to the subsector is only about 33.3 metric tonnes per annum, leaving the nation with no option but to resort to importation to bridge the gap, leading to capital flight.

“In recent times however, the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries in Nigeria have shown apathy for local kaolin in their products formulation. The inability of the locally sourced kaolin to meet the quality specification of cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries has resulted in the importation of a large quantity of processed kaolin on annual basis,” he said.

Speaking on the council’s intervention in the sector, the RMRDC boss said the council had initiated various programmes and projects to promote industrial processing and utilization of kaolin locally.

RMRDC, it would be recalled, was established in December 17, 1987 with the primary mandate to develop local raw materials and co-ordinate research efforts, especially in relation to raw materials acquisition, exploitation, conservation and development.

Listing some of these interventions, Ibrahim said the council established three kaolin processing plants, two of which produce industrial grade kaolin while the third produces pharmaceutical grade.

“These are located in Gwarzo and Kankara in Kano, and Katsina states respectively. After the successful completion of the projects, the council divested from the industrial grade plants, in line with its policy and re-invested the funds into new kaolin projects,” he added.

He stated that the council, in partnership with the Katsina State government, established the Kankara industrial kaolin processing project as a catalytic model factory to promote value addition and increase supply of industrial grade kaolin locally, adding the council had divested its interest in the project which is now owned by the state government.

The RMRDC boss added that the council embarked on the catalytic model factory programme in the 1990s for the purpose of stimulating the emergence of small and medium scale enterprises, using the projects as models, saying  the programme also encouraged private sector investors to utilize proven indigenous processing technologies for raw materials development and to stimulate their interest in establishing resource-based industries, in addition to being used to enhance indigenous capacity for equipment and machinery design and fabrication.

He said: “The establishment of industrial and pharmaceutical grade kaolin plants has catalysed the establishment of similar projects by private investors.  Some of these are Integrated Minerals Ltd and Kaolin and Ceramic Ltd. Dutsinma in Katsina State; Monumental Kaolin, Barikin Ladi Kaolin, ACG Mineral and Fleet Minerals in Plateau State; Jachinllins Nig. Ltd. and Bauchi Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society in Bauchi State.  Currently, the established plants employ more than 1000 people in both kaolin mining and beneficiation activities. 

“Apart from these, the council collaborated with Fleet Minerals Limited, Jos, to fabricate hammer mills and pulverisers to enhance the processing of kaolin in Bauchi State and in Umuezeana-Umunuko community in Ukpor, Nnewi South local government area of Anambra State.”

He further said another major initiative of the council was to promote utilization of standard products which is done by ensuring quality assessment of the minerals, adding the council established minerals testing centres in Ukana, Akwa Ibom State, and the African University of Science and Technology (AUST), Abuja, towards this end.

Ibrahim stated that the council, in an effort to promote local production of metakaolin, a calcined kaolin for use as a replacement to titanium dioxide in paints production, developed the technology for calcined kaolin production and utilization as a partial replacement for titanium dioxide.

He added that the council embarked on this project to produce calcined kaolin that would serve as 40 per cent partial substitute for titanium dioxide in paint making, reduce the importation of titanium dioxide by 40 per cent, develop simple indigenous technology in the processing of calcined kaolin and to stimulate interest in investment in the solid minerals sector.

According to him, “The first phase of the project commenced using Alkaleri kaolin deposit producing 5 per cent calcined kaolin.  The second phase of the project commenced in 2009 and involved the calcination of kaolin from seven deposits across the six geo-political zones of the country for which 20 per cent substitution was achieved after industrial test. The third phase of the project which was aimed at addressing the issues identified in the second phase commenced in 2014 increasing the calcined kaolin content to 40 per cent substitution. 

“The council collaborated with Bon Affaire Ind. Ltd to fabricate and install a gas suspended calciner. So far, all component parts of the calciner have been fabricated and plans completed to install the plant at the Technology Demonstration Centre of RMRDC at the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Lugbe, Abuja.  The technology has also been patented.  Also Dangote Cement is ready to use the calcined kaolin produced as an extender in cement production. 

“Already, six investors have shown interest in establishing similar plants in the country.  When the technology is successfully taken over by private sector investors it will lead to creation of more than 3,000 jobs in up and downstream sectors of kaolin mining and processing locally.”