News Column

Ignorance of Laws Hinder Big Mining Investments

September 2, 2014

Sebastian Mrindoko

LACK of awareness of various laws and regulations related to mining activities has been cited as one of the setbacks and main source of misunderstanding between local communities and investors.

"To avert the problem there is no excuse but the parties especially the communities living near the mines must understand the laws for the sector to achieve the desired goals," said Dr Peter Kafumu, Commissioner of Minerals in the Ministry of Mineral and Energy.

He told the 'Business Standard' in an exclusive interview last week that the new mining law and its regulations were intended to provide not only harmonious environment but also create a winwin situation with the investors.

Dr Kafumu said understanding of the mining law was all time significant as the nation holds enormous deposits of variety of gems which would gradually be extracted for the benefits of the present and generations to come.

He said for, example, a few years back, the government was occupied with the making regulations on uranium minerals whose demand is building up. This he said, follows public worries fuelled by low understanding of the new mining regulations.

He said the public concern centres on worries that the country lacks experts to handle uraniumfrom mining to export. However, knowing the economic potentiality of uranium extraction in the country, the government has started to invest on human resources in order to cater for the rising demand.

Currently, he said there were sufficient experts in the uranium sector to handle processes regarding exploration, storage and exports. "We have eight commissioners and 13 assistant commissioners who are mining experts stationed at different zones countrywide and could easily handle all issues regarding uranium extractions," Dr Kafumu said.

The Eastern Zone comprises Tanga, Coast and Dar es Salaam regions; Central Zone covers Singida, Dodoma and Tabora; Lake Zone comprises Mwanza, Kagera and Mara and Southern regions -- Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma. However, he said that uranium mining is not different from other minerals like gold or diamond.

"Mining engineering is a wide profession that covers all minerals and gemstones. So, the issue of the country lacking expertise on uranium mining is not true," he said. He said the government in collaboration with some development partners have offered scholarships for masters' degree to specialize in the handling of uranium extraction and its processes.

He said the US and Australia have offered four scholarships to Tanzanians to learn more about uranium mining.For this rationale, he said, the government has continued to hold its position to undertake various uranium projects in order to explore their potential benefits to the economy.

"The 2010 Mining Act and its regulations point out that the role of the government would be to control exploration, storage and exports of uranium to avert smuggling into the black markets especially for manufacture of nuclear weapons," insisted Dr Kafumu.

Contrary to wrong notion and opinion by a few individuals, he noted that the country was not in a position to generate power from uranium for lack of technology and financial capability.

He said uranium operations are complicated as safety and environmental precautions are involved and as such, commissioning of the mines could take up several years.

"We are not thinking of using uranium to generate power for the time being because nuclear reactors are delicate and expensive to handle but when appropriate time comes, then the policies, laws and specific regulations will be enacted to guide the process," he added.

He said that with the new Mining Act and its regulations in place, uranium export permit could only be issued by the minister responsible for Minerals and Energy and the buyer should be well known.

He insisted that the new Mining Act and regulations stipulate categorically how uranium should be extracted safely, taking into consideration hazardous environmental impacts. The radioactive mines become unsafe at the processing stage which would not be carried in the country.

He said the decision to initiate uranium extraction has been fuelled by the growing world demand. Records show that about a third of annual demand for uranium is being met by declining inventories.

"The favourable regulatory and stable political conditions for exploration, as evidenced by the boom in the gold mines, as well as the strong investment in nickel, platinum and coal exploration are some of the attracting features to the investors," he said.

Some of the foreign companies carrying out uranium exploration include Mantra Tanzania Limited, Uranium Resources Plc, a uranium mining company focusing on Southern Africa and Australia- based Western Metals Limited. The recent exploration results were highly encouraging.

Recently, the Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told the parliament over the implementation of the 400- million-USdollar (about 600bn/-) uranium mining project by Australian based Mantra Resources in the Selous Game Reserve upon approval by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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Source: AllAfrica

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