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Tanzania expected to become second-biggest uranium producer

11th October 2013

  

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Canadian mining company Uranium One’s Mkuju River uranium mine, located in southern Tanzania, has the potential to put Tanzania in a position to surpass Canada as the world’s second-biggest uranium producer, says Tanzania’s former commissioner for minerals Dr Dalaly Peter Kafumu.

Currently, Kazakhstan is the number one uranium producer in the world, having pro-duced 19 451 t in 2011 and commanding 36% of the world’s total uranium production, reports the World Nuclear Association. Kazakhstan has 15% of the world’s uranium resources and an expanding mining sector.

Canada was the world’s largest uranium producer for many years, accounting for about 22% of world output, but in 2009, was overtaken by Kazakhstan. The country’s production comes mainly from the McArthur River mine, in northern Saskatchewan, which is the largest in the world. Further, production is expected to increase significantly from 2014 as the new Cameco-owned Cigar Lake mine, located in the uranium rich Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan, comes into operation.

According to Tanzanian media, the Mkuju River site is said to contain at least 36 000 t in known uranium deposits and various reports suggest that the mine will extract 14 000 t/y of the radioactive element, the average grade being 0.024% to 0.025%.

Russian mining firm Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ) will build and operate the uranium mine through Uranium One.

The Ministry of Energy and Minerals issued a special mining licence to Mantra Tanzania, which is owned by engineers and environment consultants Mantra Resources, a subsidiary of ARMZ.

The Tanzanian government granted Mantra a provisional license in December 2012, when construction on the underground mine started. Construction is expected to take two years.

Further, in July, Mining Weekly reported that initial projections show that Tanzania will gain $250-million a year in revenue and the project is expected to create about 2 000 jobs.

Tanzanian Vice President Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal adds that although Tanzania would be limited to selling its uranium ore on the international market, as it lacks the technology and funding to harness the element for domestic use, the project will bring in $448-million in foreign direct investment.

The project has also been approved by the United Nation’s World Heritage Committee, as Mkuju was removed from the Selous Game Reserve, which is a World Heritage Site.

According to Uranium One’s website, at its thirty-sixth session in St Petersburg from June 24 to July 6, 2012, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Committee approved an application by the Tanzanian Government for a minor adjustment to the boundary of the Selous Game Reserve removing the Mkuju River project and an adjacent buffer zone from the Selous Game Reserve World Heritage Site

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Edited by Megan van Wyngaardt
Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

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