VILLAGERS in Lukuyu village in Namtumbo district, Ruvuma region are eager to see Mkuju river project kicks-off for them to benefit from the countless opportunities embedded in the uranium mining venture.
The project is envisaged to improve social services delivery as well as creating job opportunities for villagers living around the mining site. The project delay for over five years now authorities were citing the decline of uranium price in the global market as one of the major reasons for its deferral.
Some of the villagers noted that long-term employments are due to the fact that feasibility
studies, conducted by Mantra Tanzania limited showed the presence of uranium, which can be mined for not less than 50 years.
Already, some schools in the villages have started to experience improvements, as part of
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by the investor, during the feasibility studies era, about 10 years back, said one of the villagers, Aliko Mpepo.
“Valuation exercise for our plots took place in 2014, with our houses earmarked for demolition to pave the way for the expansion of the main road towards the mining site, but nothing had been done so far. All those dreams are fading after the project operations had stopped for a couple of years now,” Mpepo lamented.
He added: “Our wives are also already on stand-by to run food vending businesses around the mining site, meaning that our families would automatically advance when family mothers and fathers are at work, whether in or around the mine.”
He said that people are also expecting remarkable changes in the whole society, as results of village’ tariffs collections from the mine. This is because the authorities keep on telling that all the collected funds will be allocated to various development projects.
Likuyuseka Ward councilor, Kassim Gunda supported the motion, saying that the villagers will at first-hand benefit from employment as it was agreed that 60 percent of the project manpower should be locals.
He affirmed that the contract was also directing the investor to have been setting aside one
percent of the turnover as CSR.
“Then after, its villagers who will be deciding in which kind of social services the amount should be allocated… be it in education, health, water, road infrastructures sectors…..among others,” he said.
The contract was also directing the investor to contribute 0.3 percent of the turnover as
a service levy. The collected funds will be also allocated to various development projects, for the benefit of Namtumbo residents.
He was further quoted saying that road improvement will automatically encourage a high level of people’s interaction and business growth, hence, economic development from the village to a regional level.
Songea district commissioner, Pololet Mgema, said the project’s delay was due to decline of uranium price in the world market.
“That is the only declaration we have as of now. However, we urge the villagers to be patient as the investor will be in place soon after the price had stabilized,” he said.
Both unskilled and skilled Tanzanians will be prioritized in terms of job opportunities.
Executive secretary of the Mining Commissioner, Prof Shukran Manya cited the decline of the uranium price is the only reason behind the project’s standstill.
“Let them calm down as all their expectations will be met after the mining activities have taken place. Mantra Tanzania Limited has a special mining license and ready for the business but cannot operate right now because the project could be unprofitable,” he said.
When asked how if another investor emerges and decides to get into a contract of uranium
business regardless of uranium price decline, Prof Manya responded: “The mining license isn’t transferable in such a way. Remember, the first investor has already invested in some areas including carrying out feasibility studies. Again, it is well known worldwide that the world market isn’t stable, then where the new investor is going to sell the minerals?”
According to the available data, Mantra Tanzania Limited special mining license’s validity is 15years from 2013. Nearly eight years have already been passed with no production at the site.
Asked on to what is next in case the license expires before the investor has started the work as results of uranium price instability in the global market, the Minister for Minerals, Dotto Biteko responded:
“If appears so, Mantra Tanzania will be obliged to update its feasibility studies and present the report to the government. Then the responsible minister will use the available regulations to make beneficial decisions for both sides, meaning the government and its client.”
He added: “Once results for feasibility studies are realistic, we give the go ahead, and if aren’t realistic then we give advice on what should be done because the aim here is not chasing away the clients but give the relief.”
Biteko admitted that the government had not yet responded to Mantra Tanzania Limited request on the consent for postponement of Mkuju river project operations for five years.
It is because the government asked the company to submit basic reasons over the request, but in vain, said the minister, adding: “And the government came across that many of the mining license holders have been requesting for what is called ‘pending surrender’ (postponement) when they are in a mission to close the mines or to change the ownership of the license. The government usually demands basic reason over the request but many, including Mantra, do fail to submit, hence, no government’s response at all.”
The minister, however, admitted that the commencement of the Mkuju river project would enable the government to establish a uranium center (market), hence, make Tanzania the first country in eastern Africa to have such a kind of market.