PLANS by the government to develop soda ash project at Engaruka basin in Arusha Region remain intact with studies confirming abundant deposits of the resources.
The government through the National Development Corporation (NDC) is looking for a consultant to carry out socio-technical study for the project envisaged to stimulate the local economy of Engaruka area in the Rift Valley of northern Tanzania and further boost the economy of the country.
NDC Corporate Affairs Manager Abel Ngapemba told the 'Daily News' yesterday that the study would seek to determine the economic viability of the project as well as infrastructure needed and the ideal technology to be used for the project regarded as one among national strategic investments.
"We would like to know an appraisal of technological parameters and its economic and social viability. It is about an analysis of technical issues and social and economic viability of the project," said Mr Ngapemba in an interview. He said latest studies have confirmed enough deposits for commercial exploitation of the soda ash deposits at Engaruka basin situated about 63 km north of Mto wa Mbu, on the road to Oldonyo Lengai and Lake Natron.
NDC would work closely with the National Environmental Management Council to address environmental issues that may arise out of the planned project, he said.
The Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Abdallah Kigoda said in Parliament last May that implementation of the soda ash mining project would largely depend on improvement of infrastructure, including revamping Tanga-Arusha railways line, construction of a railway line from Arusha to Lake Natron as well as expansion of Tanga port.
Tender for construction of a railway line to tap the mineral deposits at Engaruka has already been advertised. Construction of the railway line is planned to be part of the major upgrading of Tanga to Arusha railway line and construction of the Arusha to Musoma railway line project.
The Reli Assets Holding Company (RAH CO) announced tenders in May this year to upgrade the existing light rail metre gauge railway line from Tanga to Arusha (438km) to standard gauge (1,435mm) and construct a new railway line from Arusha to Musoma (approximately 670km) with spurs to Engaruka soda ash mine. Soda ash, known chemically as sodium carbonate, is a key raw material for glass, chemicals, soaps and detergents.