8 June 2014

Tanzania: Kudos to Govt for Efforts to End Conflicts in Mining Areas

THIS week the Ministry of Energy and Minerals held an important meeting with regional commissioners, district commissioners, councillors and other stakeholders in the mining sector.

On the agenda was the need for a joint strategic plan to prevent disputes related to ownership of mining sites in the country.

Indeed, the harnessing of natural resources has become a curse in other parts of the world and Tanzania intends to avoid the curse trap.

The country boasts of a variety of minerals ranging from gold, diamond, tanzanite, gemstones, coal to uranium, to mention just a few.

Shortly, exploitation of huge natural gas reserves will lift the country to a higher level of national energy security.

The geographical distribution of the available minerals is equally extensive, covering almost every region.

Although exploration work requires sophisticated machinery and expertise, dozens of mining sites have been spotted by artisanal miners.

Thousands of small-scale miners are found in such places, some without mining licences and their displacement to pave way for large-scale investment has always resulted in conflicts.

The proposal by regional and district leaders to put in place an effective communication system between the Ministry of Energy and Minerals and leaders at various levels aimed at diffusing potential and real conflicts is to be appreciated.

Informed authorities at regional, district, divisional, ward and village levels will surely complement each others' efforts in informing local communities about planned largescale investment and the associated benefits.

Again, mining agreements should not be concealed but rather made clear to the host communities in order for them to appreciate the attendant benefits such as the number of job opportunities to be created, the amount of corporate social responsibility funds to be injected in social projects and the allocation of tracks of land for local small-scale miners -- all aimed at avoiding clashes.

Official records indicate that ongoing mining activities in the country hardly add up to 10 per cent of the vast mineral resources, leaving the remaining 90 per cent untapped.

This implies a huge future contribution potential by the mineral sector to the national economy.

In this regard, the sector is set to grow steadily and therefore the need to coordinate its activities well in advance to rid the nation of chaotic and unstable situations, turning the resources into a curse instead of a blessing.

Formalization of small-scale mining activities should be given deserving attention as the sector has proved to be the second largest job provider after agriculture.

A pledge by the government to offer necessary support for artisanal miners, including provision of loans and capacity building initiatives, is commendable because the motivation will surely sustain mutual trust among the stakeholders at all levels.

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