THE Mkuju River Project, a uranium mining project in Namtumbo District, Ruvuma Region, is expected to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) amounting to US$ 1bn (about 1.6tri/-) over the project's life. The project is owned by Mantra Tanzania and operated by Uranium One Incorporation.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Uranium One, Mr Chris Sattler, told a news conference in Dar es Salaam recently that operations at the project will be subjected to international standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as national and regional laws and regulations.
"Just like any other uranium mining project in the world, the Mkuju River Project will be operated in accordance to national and international safety regulations and standards," Mr Sattler said while taking questions from journalists.
If all goes as planned construction of the project should begin in the next dry season and take two years to complete. Before construction can begin, a nine month, detailed engineering and design programme must be completed, added Mr Sattler.
The journalists who attended the news conference had earlier visited the project site in Namtumbo to get a firsthand account of the proposed mining project. Flanked by Mantra's Managing Director, Mr Asa Mwaipopo, Mr Sattler said there are two remaining approvals from the government that are required before construction can begin.
He said last year Tanzania secured an approval from the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO for minor adjustment to the boundary of the adjacent Selous Game Reserve World Heritage site.
"Earlier this year, the government granted Mantra a special mining licence. We are now looking forward to settling the Mining Development Agreement (MDA) with the government through the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, after which we would look to receive the required formal consent to operate from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism," he explained.
Mr Sattler said uranium produced by the project will be supplied to electrical utilities solely for the generation of electricity. "The uranium will be used only for producing nuclear energy within countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept full international IAEA safeguards," he said.
When operations at the MRP commence, Tanzania would become Africa's third largest producer of the mineral after Niger and Namibia. Some 1,600 people are expected to be employed during construction and there will be 750 permanent jobs when the mine starts operations, according to Mr Mwaipopo. T
here will be even more indirect jobs created by the Mkuju River Project over its life. At present there are 120 employees who are involved in exploration activities, Mr Mwaipopo explained.
A senior geologist at the MRP, Mr James Magweiga, told journalists that as of November, last year, MRP had uranium deposits of 119.4 million pounds (54,000 tonnes). "The current initial mine life is expected to be around 12 years.
Exploration is, however, still going on, with a view to finding more mineral resources to add to the life of the mine," the expert elaborated. Hopes are high among residents of Namtumbo District and its environs as people there are longing to utilise the business opportunities that will come with the development of the mega project, says Namtumbo District Commissioner, Mr Abdula Lutavi.