Uncertainty clouds 300MW power plan By Levina Kato and Tom Mosoba Uncertainty hangs over the proposed 300MW natural gas electricity project to connect the southern regions of Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma to the national grid. Reports that Barrick International has withdrawn from financing the project have dealt a serious blow to medium-term plans to bolster the national power grid. Tanzania Electric Supply Company managing director Idris Rashidi revealed that Barrick was withdrawing from financing the Artumas project during a meeting with the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a fortnight ago. "Artumas have formally notified us that their partner, Barrick International, has withdrawn," Dr Rashid told the committee chaired by Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe. He termed the move �surprising and shocking�, but did not give reasons for the withdrawal. Details from within the committee indicated that Barrick and Artumas, all Canadian multinational companies with extensive interests in the country, planned to invest $400 million (Sh520 billion) and $500 million (Sh650 billion), respectively, to generate and transmit 300MW of electricity using natural gas harnessed by the latter at Mnazi Bay. However, Barrick has maintained that it has not entered into any formal agreement with Artumas to finance the project. Barrick Tanzania Limited spokesperson Teweli Teweli told The Citizen that the gold mining giant was only interested as a potential customer once the project was completed. "Barrick is not a signatory to any agreement related to the development of the Mnazi Bay project. Barrick had been involved for some time in discussions with Tanesco, TPDC (Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation) and Artumas as a prospective customer and representative of the Tanzania Chamber of Minerals and Energy (TCME)," Mr Teweli in a communication to The Citizen. Mr Teweli said the discussions were supposed to lead to a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) in which Barrick was to consider the possibility of investing in a generating company (TanGen) and recover its investment through the sale of electricity under the PPA. "Neither a PPA nor an MOU was signed. I stress that Barrick is not a developer," Teweli said. He said the mining firm was only implementing the North Mara, Buzwagi, and Kaham electrification projects worth $28 million (Sh36 billion), $30 million (Sh39 billion) and $35 million (Sh46 billion), respectively. Mr Teweli added, however, that Barrick would still be in need of the power supply that Mnazi Bay was capable of generating. Artumas officials have been unavailable for comment in the past week, and official emails sent to their headquarters have not been replied to. When contacted, Energy and Minerals minister William Ngeleja said Artumas and Barrick were best placed to say what was happening. "I cannot give any comment about the envisaged project or confirm the reported withdrawal," the minister said. He added: "It is important to establish whether Barrick had concluded their agreement with Artumas or had just embarked on initial stages of negotiations." Mr Ngeleja, however, cautioned against apportioning blame at this time. The Government attached a lot of interest in the Mnazi Bay power project due to constantly rising demand for electricity. A significant number of high-profile projects are lined up for the Mtwara Corridor, and all are dependent on an uninterrupted power supply that would have been guaranteed by the Artumas project. Some of the prospective development projects dependent on power from Mnazi Bay are in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, commercial and related sectors. There are also the prospects in investments in the cement and fertiliser industries. Regional commissioners for the three regions have expressed their hope that investor confidence in the regions would be significantly bolstered should the power project take off smoothly. Artumas currently supplies less than 16MW of electricity in the vicinity of their gas exploration site in Mtwara. Mtwara Regional Commissioner Anatole Tarimo said the growth of industries in Newala, Masasi and Tandahimba was dependent on a reliable electricity supply. He said his office was working closely with Artumas Group under an umbrella company � Umoja Light Company � to oversee the project's implementation. He said Umoja Light Company was currently overseeing the construction of a section of a-30km transmission line between Nyang'ao in Mtwara Region and Ndanda in Lindi Region. The construction of the line is expected to be completed in July, but the linking of Masasi, Newala and Tandahimba districts is scheduled to be accomplished in December. His Lindi counterpart, Mr Said Sadiki, also underscored the importance of the Mnazi Bay project. He said six major investments in Lindi were awaiting the successful implementation of the project. "We have four cashewnut processing factories which operate below capacity due to a power shortage. The pumping of water from Ruvuma Valley has also stalled for lack of power," he said, adding that farming in Makonde Plains that traverse Newala, Tandahimba and some parts of Mtwara Rural districts has also been badly affected.