Tanzania: As Gold Prices Fall, Explorers Shift Focus to Non-Traditional Minerals

Posted on :Monday , 9th January 2017

Dar es Salaam — Explorers are shifting from traditional minerals to prospecting for graphite and new forms of gems, BusinessWeek has established.

They are also targeting industrial minerals, minimising their work in traditional minerals.
The acting commissioner of Minerals, Mr John Shija, believes that the fall in gold prices has pushed multinational corporations to shift their attention to non-traditional minerals that are highly demanded. "Large graphite reserves have been discovered in Ruangwa, Lindi Region. In 2016, huge deposits of graphite were found in Ipanko, Mahenge and Ruangwa."
He says the increasing use of graphite to make car batteries and manufacture chips of computers and handsets has raised the commodity prices in the world market.
He names other highly demanded resources as lithium, potash, cobalt and helium.
According to him, more discoveries of such minerals are expected in 2017 as the exploration pace is high. Apart from Ruangwa and Ipanko graphite mines, IMX based in Australia has an interest in Nachingwea graphite mines under Chilalo project in Lindi.
"In particular, Chilalo coarse flake graphite in excess of 180 micron has been identified as suitable for the production of high value expandable graphite products such as graphite foil, graphite paper, knitted tape (high temperature and fire resistance), narrow flexible graphite strip, and other graphite based products requiring high rates of expansion" reads an IMX statement.
The director of data base and information system at the Geological Survey of Tanzania (GST), Ms Yokbeth Nyumbilwa, supports that more mining explorations are needed because the demand for new minerals is high.
"Tanzania has ample minerals which are yet to be exploited."
According to a GST report of 2016, the government has updated geological maps.
Tanzania has more than 50 types of gemstones, and many of them are yet to be exploited, according to GST. Seven months ago, Energy and Minerals minister Sospeter Muhongo announced that scientists had discovered 54 billion cubic feet deposits of helium.
He said the find would alleviate global shortages of gas used in medical diagnosis through MRI scanners.
He said the discovery, made by GST and Helium One Company of Norway in cooperation with scientists from Durham and Oxford universities, was important for Tanzania.
Helium is also used in rockets, balloons, arc welding and in leakage detection, the minister said. Mining is projected to contribute to 10 per cent of Tanzania's GDP by 2025.
According to Helium One, Tanzania's total deposits of helium are worth $3.5 billion.
"With this latest find valued at $3.5 billion, Tanzania has much to gain, considering the fact that its nominal GDP stands at $46.8 billion. The find will further galvanise the mining sector," reads part of 2016 report of Helium One.
The current global market is thought to be worth $6 billion, with the price of bulk liquid helium rising by 100 per cent in the past 10 years, Helium One's statement says.
Global consumption is around 8bcf a year, according to the report.
"We will continue to license mining investors of any kind of minerals. We want the sector to contribute more to the economic growth," Mr Shija says.
A decade ago gold was sold at more than $2,000 per ounce, but last month it was $1,130, the Financial Times of London reported.


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