Rare earth minerals were discovered after the drilling at the Tumbili target, within the Wigu Hill Rare Earth Project located 170 km south-west of Dar es Salaam. Canadian firm, Montero Mining and Exploration Ltd did the drilling. By JOHN MBALAMWEZI Special Correspondent Posted Saturday, March 31 2012 at 14:50 Tanzania plans to enter the global trade of rare earth minerals following the discovery of lower grade deposits bearing bastnaesite mineralisation. The rare earth minerals were discovered after the drilling at the Tumbili target, within the Wigu Hill Rare Earth Project located 170 km south-west of Dar es Salaam. Canadian firm, Montero Mining and Exploration Ltd did the drilling. William Ngeleja, Minister for Minerals and Natural Resources, asked locals to take advantage of the opportunity to invest in the sector in order to benefit. "The government will consider ways and means that can help small miners around Wigu Hill to have access to the deposits," said Mr Ngeleja. He said that the Wigu Hill's competitive advantage was its simple carbon material, unlike many rare earths, which are found in deposits that have radioactive materials or silica increasing the cost of processing. The mining sector contributes about 2.3 per cent of the GDP, which is projected to increase to 10 per cent by 2025 as stated in the Tanzania Development Vision 2025. It is one of the leading components in generating foreign exchange earnings within the non-traditional exports. Demand for rare earth metals has sky rocketed as the digital revolution produces a huge array of popular hi-tech products such as iPods and smartphones, while fast-growing emerging markets have created millions of newly wealthy consumers to buy them. Global demand for rare earth metals is forecast to rise by 48 per cent to 185,000 tonnes by 2015. Although a host of companies outside China are rushing to produce rare earth metals, they are not expected to keep up with rising demand and experts are predicting a shortfall of up to 50,000 tonnes by 2015 and a corresponding jump in prices. According to Mike Evans, a consulting geologist to Montero Mining and Exploration Ltd, Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are critical in the advancement and development of emerging "green" technologies and high-tech applications.