Tanzania: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Tanzania is located in eastern Africa and borders the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Kenya. It covers an area of 947,300 km2 and has a population of 43,601,796 according to 2012 estimates. The climate in the country varies from tropical along coastal regions to temperate in elevated lands.

The national flag of Tanzania.
The national flag of Tanzania.
Image Credits: CIA Factbook

The country is awash with resources such as nickel, natural gas, gold, gemstones, diamonds, coal, iron ore, phosphates and tin. The country's economy in terms of per capita income is one of the poorest in the world. However, the country maintained its GDP growth of 7% per year between 2000 and 2008 due to its increased gold production.

Moreover, the introduction of banking reforms, solid macroeconomic policies and continued donor assistance has helped the country achieve positive growth rate, despite the global recession. The country's GDP was $64.71 billion in 2011 owing to high gold prices in the global market.

Overview of Resources

Tanzania is the only producer of tanzanite in the world, according to 2010 reports. The country also has significant amount of gold, which accounts for about 2% of the world’s total gold output. Other resources that are mined in the country include diamond and cement.

In 2010, the production of gypsum and copper in the country increased by 130% each, kaolin by 129%, silver by 46%, natural gas by 21%, cement by 19% and garnet by 18%.

In 2010, the total value of gold exports in the country increased to $1.47 billion, compared to $1.23 billion in 2009. In the same year, the share of gold in the country’s total exports was 40%, and silver, diamond, copper, colored gemstones and other minerals combined was 1%. Tanzania is the third largest producer of gold in Africa.

The map of Tanzania.

The map of Tanzania. Image Credits: CIA Factbook

Metals

In 2010, the country’s gold production was 39,448 kg. The combined gold production capacity of the Tulawaka, North Mara, Golden Pride, Geita, Buzwagi and Bulyanhulu mines was 54,300 kg/yr. The Bulyanhulu Mine operated by Barrick in 2010 produced nearly 8,100 kg of gold. African Barrick Gold plc produced nearly 5,900 kg of gold in the Buzwagi Mine. Resolute Mining Ltd. of Australia owned the Golden Pride Mine, which produced 4,624 kg of gold in 2010.

A joint venture of Barrick Gold Corp. of Canada and Xstrata plc of Switzerland has carried out exploration work at Kabanga nickel deposit to produce 63.9 million Mt of nickel. The mine was also reported to contain platinum, copper and cobalt. African Eagle Resources plc of UK has planned to start production of 20,000 Mt/yr of nickel at Dutwa nickel-cobalt laterite deposit by 2015.

In 2010, niobium and tantalum resources were identified at the Ngualla Carbonatite project in western Tanzania by Peak Resources.

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

The country’s largest diamond mine is the Williamson Mine, which was acquired by Petra Diamonds Ltd. of UK to produce 43,560 carats of diamond in 2010. The company also plans to produce 200,000 carats of diamond in 2012 and 600,000 carats per year by 2014. Williamson Mine was estimated to contain 40 million carats of diamond.

The total cement produced in Tanzania in 2010 was 3 million Mt/yr. Tanga Cement Company Ltd. increased its production capacity to 850,000 t in 2010 from 706,000 t in 2009. The production capacity of Tanzania Portland Cement Company Ltd. (TPCC) was increased to 1.19 Mt in 2010 from 1 Mt in 2009. Athi River Mining Ltd. of Kenya has planned to complete construction of a new cement plant with a production capacity of 750,000 t/yr in 2012.

Tanzania produces various gemstones such as tourmaline, tanzanite, spinel, sapphire, ruby, garnet, emerald, cordierite, aquamarine and amethyst. Tanzanite is the major gemstone mined in Merelani near Arusha. Merelani is the only source of tanzanite in the world. TanzaniteOne mined 441 kg of rough tanzanite in 2010, compared to 383 kg in 2009.

In 2010, the lemshuku region was found to contain deposits of tsavorite, a green grossular garnet that obtains its color from traces of vanadium and chromium.

In 2010, Minjingu Mines identified small amounts of phosphate rock at Minjingu, and Fertilizers Ltd. Peak Resources carried out drilling operation at Ngualla carbonatite project to produce rare-earth elements (REE) and phosphates.

Fossil Fuels

In 2011, Atomic Resources Ltd. of Australia in association with state-owned National Development Corp. (NDC) started a new coal mine at the Ngaka coalfield in Ruvumu District. The new coal mine had a production capacity of 150,000 t of coal in its first phase in 2011. The company is likely to increase its capacity to 2.5 Mt/yr by 2014.

Orca Exploration Group Inc. has produced 790 million m3 of natural gas from Songo Island in 2010, as compared to 668 million m3 in 2009. It has plans to increase its production capacity to 1.45 billion m3 by 2013. In 2010, Maurel et Prom, Wentworth Resources Ltd of UK, state-owned Tanzania Petroleum Development Corp. and Cove Energy plc of UK has produced nearly 18 million m3 of natural gas at Mnazi Bay.

In early 2010, Tullow Oil plc of UK along with its joint venture partners has drilled an exploration well in Rovuma Basin.

According to the feasibility studies conducted by Mantra Resources Ltd in 2010, the Nyota property is capable of supporting a new uranium mine with an average production capacity of 1,700 t/yr of uranium oxide. Uranex NL of Australia is engaged in developing a new mine in the Manyoni project with a capacity of 350 and 400 t/yr of uranium oxide in a seven- year life period.

Investment

Gold, diamond, coal, natural gas are Tanzania’s major mineral export commodities. The country’s gold export increased by 31% to $1.879 billion in 2011 from $1.436 billion in 2010. The government ordered all mining companies operating in the country for more than five years to pay corporate taxes in light of the rising gold prices in the global market.

Further, the government has invited 11 bids for a stake in the Buhemba gold mine, which was initially privatized by a local company and recently regained by the government. It has also invited bids for a joint venture coal mining project to construct a 200-MW coal-fired power plant in a state-run coal mine with a capacity of 35.5 million t of coal, for a cost of $400 million.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the mining and quarrying activities in the country increased by 14.3% this year from 0.8% in 2011. Diamond production has increased to 57,330 carats, compared to 10,472 carats last year. Gold output has also doubled to 16,736 kg this year. As a result, the economic growth rate of the country increased by 7.1% during recent times.

In addition, the production of natural gas, gold, diamond, coal and cement is expected to increase in the near future. Cobalt and nickel mining could also be started in the country based on a pre-feasibility study results. Thanks to all these positive developments, the mining sector of Tanzania will likely remain strong in the coming years.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources and Further Reading

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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