TANZANIA is tipped to join the club of leading iron producers in Africa by 2018 when Liganga steel plant in Njombe Region's Ludewa District starts full production, with an average turnout of one million tonnes per annum.
Currently, the country's 21 steel industries produce only 200,000 tonnes of iron against the annual demand of 800,000 tonnes.
The Head of Chemical Industries at the National Development Corporation (NDC), Mr Abdallah Mandwanga told the 'Daily News' that the 600,000 tonnes of iron consumed in the country are imported.
He said that Tanzania is expected to become the fourth biggest producer of iron in Africa after South Africa that produces 8.5 million tonnes of iron per year. Other leading iron ore producing countries include Egypt (eight million) and Libya (two million tonnes).
It is estimated that 1.55 billion tonnes of iron is produced globally per year. He observed that the 1.8 billion US dollars (about 3trn/-) project deal, which is a joint venture between NDC and a Chinese firm--China International Minerals Resources Ltd was sealed in 2011.
"We started the process of confirming the resource immediately after signing the contract with this Chinese company and finally conclude that the project is viable," he noted.
He pointed out that the ground work has been completed but the project was only being frustrated by the presence of poor infrastructure in the area.
Mr Mandwanga noted that the available road infrastructure from Njombe town to the site was very poor, thus could not allow transportation of some of the machines.
"There are some machines that weigh about 150 tonnes and others with a length of 15 metres, with our standard roads transporting these machines is very difficult," he remarked.
In that case, he said that NDC asked the government to improve the 12km road from Njombe town to Liganga to ease transportation of the said machines.
"The government okayed our request and currently improvement of the road is going on, we expect that the end of August the work will be over and all machines to be used in the plant will be transported to the site for installation," he added.
Mr Mandwanga explained further that in order to ensure availability of spongy iron--raw material or conventional route for making steel, NDC in partnership with MM Steel Resources Public Limited Company is carrying out another project.