7 October 2012

Tanzania: Nickel Exploration Bears Fruit

Nachingwea — NGWENA Company Limited, a subsidiary of Australia's IMX Resources has discovered nickel reserves amounting to 290,000 tonnes at Ntaka Hill Nickel Project proved to be economically viable for mining.

Having invested a total of 38bn/- since it started exploration in the area in the year 2006, the company is optimistic of starting to mine the precious metal by the end of 2015."We are still conducting more exploration at the area since there are prospects for more reserves," the company's Community Manager, Mr Christopher Airo, told a team of journalists on a study tour here.

The exploration covers a vast area including parts of Liwale, Ruangwa, Nachingwea districts in Lindi Region as well as Masasi District in Mtwara Region.According to Mr Airo, exploration activities for nickel at the area started in the 1950s through the 1980s.

"The first discovery of nickel was done in 2006 by Goldstream before it was taken over by Continental Nickel. The latter then merged with IMX and bought the property into one entity," he explained.Mr Airo, however, explained concerns on negative perceptions from residents around the project area who cannot differentiate between exploration and mining activities.

"Once they see us extracting anything from underground for testing and sampling purposes, they think we have already started mining," lamented the community manager.He also complained over shortage of water which is sourced almost 30km from the site as well as poor road infrastructure around the project area.

The IMX General Manager, Mr Mike Hannington, said once mining of the metal becomes operational, it would be transported abroad for smelting through Mtwara Port."This is because there are six nickel smelting plants in the world, one of which is in South Africa.

It would be uneconomical to set up a smelter in Tanzania as there are no adequate reserves at present," Mr Hannington argued.And since the area lacks power supply, the general manager said the company will consider connecting power from neighbouring Masasi District when it starts mining.

The company currently employs 125 people for exploration activities, but the number is expected to grow to 430 people when it starts mining.Nickel is used for making stainless steel, heat resistant parts for airplanes and motor vehicles, in addition to decorations, coins among others.

As part of corporate social responsibility, the company has so far dished out 60m/- to support social services such as education, health and environment around the areas where it operates, according to the community manager.

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