Fostering Glass Minerals Development In Nigeria

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Glass sheets
Sheets of tinted glass.

Glass, a non-crystalline and often transparent amorphous solid material is becoming a versatile material with wide application ranging from domestic uses to adoption in the construction and aeronautics industries.

The global glass manufacturing market size was valued at USD 127.1 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1per cent from 2020 to 2027. The rapid rise in demand for the product is from electronics industry as a result of proliferation in the production of smartphones, increasing penetration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business and consumer applications, and decreasing prices of consumer electronic devices.

Other major products propelling increasing demand for glass are container glass which dominated the market with a volume share of roughly 50 per cent in 2019. In addition, increasing demand for alcoholic beverages coupled with rapid growth of beer industry in Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe is leading to increase in the demand for glass. Fiberglass is also expected to expand at a CAGR of 4.5 per cent from 2020 to 2027 due to its extensive usage in automobiles as a result of its lightweight and high strength properties. Also, the increasing use of glass in the building and construction industries and its insulation applications is expected to propel the demand for glass over next eight years.

Speaking on glass development in Nigeria, a representative of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Sunday Okoh, said Nigeria is one of the most endowed countries in term of glass raw materials availability.

According to him, the major raw materials, silica sand, quartz, limestone, soda ash, calcite, feldspars and cullet or (recycled glass) as well as aluminium trihydrate, sodium sulphate, chromite, etc., which are used as auxiliary raw materials are abundantly available in the country.

He said silica sand occurs in more than 25 states of the federation. Ondo State alone has an estimated resource of 3 billion tonnes of silica. Likewise, quartz, limestone, dolomite, marble, chromite and feldspar each occur in substantial quantities in more than 15 states of the federation. The deposits of these minerals run into millions of tonnes each.

“For instance, the estimated reserve of limestone is 2.3 trillion tonnes across the country, mainly, in Kogi, Ogun, Cross River, and Sokoto amongst other states. Also, over 119 million of proven feldspar deposit is available in the country,” he said.

He, however, lamented that despite the wide availability of various glass raw materials in Nigeria, the country depends mostly on importation of glass. In 2014, Nigeria imported over 360,000 tonnes of glass products for use in the construction industry. At present, glass importation is among the top 10 import categories in the country.

“In 2019, imported glass products, particularly laboratory and pharmaceutical glass wares accounted for a high share to the tune of USD 1.5 billion with a 35 per cent increase over the previous year. Laboratory and pharmaceutical glassware accounted for 95 per cent (USD 1.44 billion) of the total glass products imported into the country, while float and polished glass accounted for 1.91per cent or USD 28 million and packing glass accounted for 1.12 per cent or USD 17 million. Nigeria imports float glass from Europe, South America and China. In 2019, glass demand was estimated at 510,000 tonnes and this is rising due to increasing demand for glass products from the country’s booming housing industry which is the second fastest growing sector, driven by rapid growth in population. The current housing deficit is 17 million units,” he added.

In an exclusive chat with Science Nigeria, the director-general of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussiani Ibrahim, said it had become important to encourage and promote glass production in Nigeria, adding as a result of this the council had put in place programmes and projects to foster development of the glass minerals in Nigeria.

Hussaini Ibrahim
The director-general of Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim.

“The council is developing a processing/beneficiation plant for feldspar. The project which is at the final stage of completion would add value to raw feldspar for different industrial applications. The project would also catalyse investment in the emergence of more feldspar processing plants in the country and create jobs. The council is already working in tandem with investors to establish phosphate processing plants in the endowed states. The beneficiation plant is being fabricated based on reverse engineering principles in order to build local capacity. Likewise, efforts have been made by the RMRDC and Borno/Yobe State governments over the years on the establishment of a plant for the production of soda ash in Nigeria through the trona method.

“However, this was not as successful as planned because of a number of factors. Nevertheless, the project has been revisited and a technical committee made up of multidisciplinary pool of experts was set up to advice the council on the most feasible way of approaching trona production from local soda ash deposits in Nigeria. The technical committee has submitted its report to the council and the Borno/Yobe State governments and implementation strategies are already being worked out. It has been established that soda ash deposit in the neighbouring Chad Republic is suitable for trona production.

“The council should have reached an understanding with the government of Chad Republic; however, experts are of the opinion that sustainability of supply may not be guaranteed. In view of the importance of soda ash in glass manufacturing, the council has sponsored the conduct of a detailed feasibility study on the establishment of a soda ash production plant by synthetic method and is discussing with potential investors in this regard,” he stated.

The RMRDC boss said the council was also working on the development of sodium silicate, adding Nigeria expends a huge amount of its foreign exchange on the importation of sodium silicate and silica gel annually for the manufacturing sector.

Ibrahim pointed out that in 2019, an estimated 840 MT and 9,000 MT of sodium silicate and silica gel valued at N110m and N2b respectively were imported into the country, saying the raw material for the production of sodium silicate is abundant in the country, adding sodium silicate can either be produced from kaolin or rice husk, which are abundantly available locally.

“With estimated deposits of 3 billion MT of kaolin in various states of the federation and the presidential initiative on the anchor borrower programme in local rice production, the raw materials source for sodium silicate production is highly sustainable. Production of these raw materials will save the country the huge foreign exchange expended on their importation annually. As a result, the council in collaboration with Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO) is developing a process technology for the production of sodium silicate from both resources.

“When completed and commercialized, these projects are expected to generate employment and save foreign exchange for the country. The council is working assiduously on the projects to enable their early completion in order to ensure their contribution to post COVID-19 era economic growth in Nigeria as glass manufacturing is a gold mine globally,” he added.

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