In Tanzania, the gold rush continues: As foreign firms also zero in on uranium, oil deposits THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam A NEW rush for gold and uranium deposits in Tanzania appears to have begun, with dozens of foreign companies grabbing huge chunks of mineral-rich land for exploration. There is ample evidence on the ground that the country is experiencing a fresh glut of prospectors looking to cash in on surging gold prices on the world market, which reached a staggering $846 an ounce this week. According to a survey by THISDAY, gold and uranium prospecting by foreign companies in the country have reached an all-time high, with joint ventures and acquisitions of local companies being announced almost weekly now. And the latest gold and uranium rush apparently comes on the heels of a new national debate on the benefits of the mining sector to the countrys economy. Announcing last week that the government will proceed with the ongoing review process on mining contracts, President Kikwete said representatives from the private sector, civil society and even opposition political parties are to be appointed to the governments contract review committee to expand representation. And on Thursday of this week, the Canadian-headquartered International Gold Mining Limited announced that it has entered into two joint venture agreements to explore for uranium and gold in six areas within the country. Three of these areas are located within the large Bahi Swamp and Singida uranium provinces in central Tanzania. The other three blocks are located in northern Tanzania, within the �Mara Greenstone Belt which is described as a multi-million ounce gold producing province on the eastern side of Lake Victoria near the Kenyan border. The Bahi Swamp catchment area is a dry lake covering over 1,000 square kilometres, and incorporates an extensive closed drainage system that has developed over 27,000 square kilometres of weathered, uranium-rich, hot Archaean granites. Uranium accumulation within the Bahi catchment system is said to have been recognised since the 1950s, when uranium mineralization was first intersected in a drill hole located near the centre of Bahi Swamp. In the Singida area, International Gold Mining announced that it had entered into a joint venture over a granted prospecting licence covering an area of 43 square kilometres. The area is considered prospective for gold, uranium, and diamonds. The tenement lies on the south-eastern end of the Lake Victoria greenstone belt, which hosts a number of multi million ounce gold deposits including the 14 million ounce Geita Gold Mine and the 12.5 million ounce Bulyanhulu Gold Mine, said the company in a statement. The companys mineral prospecting blocks in northern Tanzania are located in Tarime District, Mara Region in the north-western part of Tanzania, some 100 kilometres east of Lake Victoria and 20 kilometres south of the Kenyan border. These blocks lie within the Mara Greenstone Belt and not too far from the multi million ounce North Mara gold mine operated by another Canadian company, Barrick Gold Corporation. Most of the gold occurrences in the area lie inside or within the vicinity of the greenstone belt. Historically, it is estimated that some nine to ten tonnes of gold has been produced in the area, said the International Gold Mining statement. Some deposits evaluation and development by other companies in the area include the North Mara gold mine, where at the time of sale to Barrick Gold in 2003, some 4.7 million ounces (141 tonnes) of gold had been defined through exploration by Africa Mashariki Gold Mine company. In 2005, Barrick Gold stated that it had defined an extra 1 million ounces of gold in the area. The Buhemba gold mine, which is understood to be currently owned and operated by the Tanzanian Government, has a yearly production of over 80,000 ounces of gold. And recently, yet another Canadian company - Atomic Minerals - announced that it had acquired over one million acres of prime land in Tanzania within an area known for hosting sizeable uranium deposits. The company said in a statement that it had signed an amended letter of intent (LOI) with Geo Can Resources Company Limited to acquire up to 90 per cent interest in about 1,300,000 acres of uranium-rich property in southwest Tanzania, divided into 10 separate licences. The property is located on the shores of Lake Nyasa, an area known to contain significant deposits of uranium. Apart from mining, Tanzanias oil and gas exploration sector has also attracted intense interest from over a dozen multinational companies. Only yesterday, Canadas Artumas Group announced that it plans to invest $170m (approx. 220bn/-) on gas exploration activities in Tanzania and oil exploration activities in Mozambique. Amid all these developments, industry experts and watchers have made the point time and again that the ordinary Tanzanian man and woman in the street stands to gain little from the obvious mining and energy sectoral boom unless drastic changes are made to the existing policy and tax frameworks.