The country is in the process of developing a world-class uranium mine on Mkuju River basin in Namtumbo District, Ruvuma Region and other parts of the country. Exploitation of the deposits would promote the country’s position of the eighth largest uranium producer in the world and third largest in Africa based on 2009 statistics.
Feasibility studies at Mkuju River confirmed a mineable ore reserve base of 65.5 million pounds which, according to experts, can support an average annual production of 4.2 million pounds over a minimum of 12-year mine life. Project developers, Mantra Tanzania, said recently it has successfully completed Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and submitted the same to the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) for determination.
It has also applied for a Special Mining Licence to the Minister for Energy and Minerals. But going by the appeal made by the Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday, it is obvious that the process of developing world-class uranium industry is going on without a national policy and proper legal framework in place.
The acting chairman of the committee, Mr Charles Mwijage (Muleba North-CCM), rightly underscored the need to ensure uranium extraction is done in the safest possible manner and beneficial to the country. It is well known that uranium is a dangerous mineral that needs proper handling to limit and control potential impacts on the environment and the people. One does not need to labour too much to understand mistakes made by the country in earlier mining contracts, particularly those involving gold production.
Tanzania is today the third largest gold producer in Africa, but the benefits being directly retained by the country have remained highly debatable leading to rigorous re-negotiation of the mining contracts. We are aware of the socio-economic benefits anticipated from the development of the Mkuju project, which includes contributing to employment and economic prosperity in the currently under-developed Lindi, Mtwara and Ruvuma regions within the Mtwara Development Corridor.
Mantra Tanzania also claims that the project would bring in foreign direct investment of approximately US$ 450 million (or 2.1 per cent of Tanzania's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based on 2009 figures) and further direct investment over the life of Mukuju River Project.
It further says that at least 1,600 jobs of various types and levels would be created during the construction phase of the project, with the majority of labour being recruited from local and district communities. The government will also earn approximately 630 million US dollars via royalties, income and employee taxes directly from the project. However, all these should come under a clear policy and legal framework as rightly demanded by the parliamentary committee.