A vibrant construction sector has stimulated gypsum mining in Lindi Region with local start-up firms and major firms scouring for the mineral used as a raw material by cement makers.
Lindi boasts of abundant high quality gypsum in Kilwa and Lindi District and it has increasingly become more economically viable for local industries secure it from Lindi than importing the material from abroad.
According to the Acting District Executive Director, Dr Elikizemba Khalfani, Kilwa District has enough gypsum reserves to last for 1,000 years which provides an opportunity for investment in processing plants to tap into the abundant mineral resources and benefit from a huge market from the thriving construction sector.
Artisanal miners hope they will cash in from the booming industry but they are frustrated about poor state of roads leading to the mining sites as they increase operating costs by inflating transport charges.
An artisanal miner in Mpindilo hamlet in Kiranjeranje Ward in Kilwa Kivinje, Tryphone Rwegasira told Tanzania Standard Newspapers (TSN) Limited journalists at his site recently that poor roads eat up the little he makes in gypsum mining as they inflate transport costs.
"Mining costs are very high and they are made worse by poor roads," he told the TSN journalists who were visiting areas potential for investments in Kilwa District ahead of a major business and investment forum for Lindi Region next week.
"The roads are impassable during rain seasons. If the roads were good, we would earn more. We appeal to the government to help out," he said. According to him, it costs 35,000/- per tonne of gypsum until it reaches the roadside for transportation to Coast and Dar es Salaam and the price they get is 40,000/- per tonne.
The price we get does not reflect the reality on the ground. The costs are so high. We spend a lot," he said. High costs of renting excavators and compressors also contribute to high operating costs, he said.
The Executive Officer for Makangaga Village, Said Abdallah Njenga said the problem of poor roads had negative impact on the revenue for the village as gypsum miners are forced to stop business when it rains because they cannot transport their minerals to the roadside.
"The main problem is roads. The village and even the district would have earned much from gypsum mining through various levies," he said. He said from May to December last year, the village council earned 10m/- as levy from gypsum mining.
According to geologists, Tanzania is reported to have the best gypsum deposits in the world in terms of purity percentage, situated in Pindilo and Mbane, Kilwa in Lindi region. Geological evidence shows that the gypsum has about 90 per cent purity with enough stock to last for several decades.
Gypsum uses include: manufacture of wallboard, cement, plaster of Paris, soil conditioning, and a hardening retarder in Portland cement.