- Aug 2, 2010
NDC's Acting Director Heavy Industry, Ramson Mwilangali informs Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) on the soda ash mining, economic impact on society and the country.
The new soda ash discovery of about 1 million m3 in the Engaruka Basin has been pointed out as a blessing that is going to make Tanzania to be one of the largest Soda Ash producers not only in Africa, but globally.
Speaking to this paper in an exclusive interview alongside a half day seminar on soda ash mining, economic impact on society and country to journalists in Dar es Salaam last week, the National Development's (NDC) Acting Managing Director Mlingi Mkucha said the soda ash project is very important to the development of the nation.
He said that NDC on behalf of the Government of Tanzania was looking forward to start harvesting soda ash. He said if all things go as they have planned, the Engaruka Basin project can take off at the end of this year of 2014, because they have already done the drilling, and they already know the reserve of the soda ash present there.
Mkucha said when they start the soda ash project they would ensure adhering to the already signed International Conventions on the Soda ash project on Lake Natron and Engaruka Basin.
Mkucha said that their intention is to implement three major projects that are meant to industrialize the country as it was previously advised by the Cabinet of Ministers. He named the three major projects as that of Mchuchuma, Liganga and Soda ash.
"However, we can not start implementing this project until we have certified to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)."
According to the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC), EIA is a process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the bio-physical, social and other relevant effects of development proposal prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made. (EMA).
The process extends from the initial concept of the proposal through implementation to completion and, where appropriate decommissioning.
The purpose is to ensure that, decision makers consider the environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to proceed with a project
EIA and Environmental Impacts
EIA process addresses the following environmental impacts/effects: Biophysical and resource use; Social and cultural; Health and safety; Economic and fiscal; Landscape and visual; Indigenous peoples' rights and values.
At his part, NDC's Acting Director Heavy Industry, Ramson Mwilangila said that if the soda ash project becomes a reality, then Tanzania's economy would achieve a huge boost with this find, which could potentially generate almost 480bn/- (US$300m) in revenue, from Engaruka Basin alone. And it will also generate 240bn/- after selling o.5 million tones of soda ash from Lake Natron.
Soda ash, known chemically as sodium carbonate, is among others, an essential constituent in the manufacturing of all kinds of glasses, production of detergents, industrial chemicals; water treatment, paper industries, petroleum refining, textile industries, flue gas desulphurization and mineral process.
Mwilangila mentioned other benefits of the soda ash project to the country as: The government will save its foreign currencies; because as of now, the government buys soda ash from Kenya at the cost of US dollars 300 per one tone of soda ash. "So, if this project takes off that money will be retained for other uses," he noted.
He said the two projects will create around one thousand direct employments; and between 5000 and 6000 indirect employments. "The discovery and exploitation of soda ash at Engaruka Basin is envisaged to stimulate the construction of industries, employment, and infrastructure development and improve living standards of the people surrounding the project area."
Furthermore, the implementation of these projects is expected to improve the living standards of the local people in these areas surrounding the projects; infrastructures will drastically be constructed and improved. And the government will collect more revenues from different sources operating in these areas.
Lake Natron Soda Ash Project
Located in the Northern part of Tanzania, about 220km from Arusha Municipality; Lake Natron contains a huge deposit of soda ash which is raw materials to chemical industries. According to Phase I resource assessment the lake has 217 m3 million of brine at zero recharges.
NDC with a Strategic Partner intends to establish 0.5 million Tonnes per annum (tpa) soda ash plant and expanded to at least 1.0 m tpa . Basic scientific studies on the lake to address stakeholders' concerns were completed to pave way for further Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study.
Further, NDC is finalizing studies for possibilities to extract the underground brine outside the present boundary of the lake basin above, 50km at Engaruka.
The soda ash deposits for commercial exploitation uncovered will be a different project from the Lake Natron one, in northern Tanzania, in the eastern branch of the East African Rift, whose studies began in the 1950s. The project will together with the Lake Natron Soda Ash one brings the total production capacity to around 1.5 million m3, annually, which is far above Kenya.
National Development Corporation (NDC) says, the discovered Soda ash also known as sodium carbonate, washing soda or soda crystals, is of the best quality in the world and suitable for commercial production. The exploration discovered total deposits of about 4.7 billion cubic metres of brine thus placing the country in a position of becoming the largest ash producer in Africa.
This amount is far above Kenya's, which can produce about 500,000 cubic metres annually. It is obvious that the new development is an added economic advantage to the country as it places Tanzania in the world map as far as soda ash reserves are concerned. The compound has multiple usage -- it is used virtually everywhere and has been a key raw material for thousands of years, the most common consumption being in the manufacturing of glass.
NDC of course has already spelt out exploitation plans and it hopes that when commercial mining begins it would stimulate the construction of industries, create employment, boost infrastructure development and thus improve the living standards of the people surrounding the project area. We also hope that the environment would be properly taken care of in the course of implementing the soda ash mining project. All in all, let us make good use of the opportunity.
Presenting his Ministry's budget estimates for Financial Year 2012-13 before the Assembly, the Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Abdallah Kigoda informed the National Assembly that his ministry in collaboration with NDC had completed the scientific study to prevent environmental degradation in Lake Natron due to mining of soda ash.
Earlier, environment activists opposed implementation of the project, claiming that it would annihilate the habitat of lesser flamingos and gradually would also encroach upon the tourism in the area.
Currently, NDC is currently looking for a consultant to carry out a socio-technical study of the project, the environment impact assessment (EIA) for the project as well as the investor who will pursue the project, scheduled to take off in 2016/17.
"After commissioning the studies that brought about positive findings using own resources, NDC stays in a good chance to negotiate with any investor in better terms," he said.
Lake Natron is a salt lake located in northern Tanzania, close to the Kenyan border, in the eastern branch of the East African Rift. The word ‘Natron' comes from the sodium carbonate concentration produced as the water dries up and leaves such dissolved minerals on its shores.
Besides, the Lake provides the most preferred breeding ground for Lesser Flamingos. The area is most suitable due to its abundance in food (blue, green algae), isolation of the breeding ground with predators & human activities and availability of fresh water. On the other hand the Lake provides suitable substrates for nest construction and good feeding areas for chicks.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN