Tanzania: New Hope Over Mahenge Mining Deal

Mahenge — Mining is sometimes prone to cause conflicts with residents near mining sites. But, for Mahenge dwellers, quite a different story is unfolding.

Both the government and the residents here see a bright future in terms of improved revenue share and better housing facilities.

Mahenge in Ulanga District - in Morogoro Region - is home to several minerals, including gold and graphite, which is believed to be one of the best quality in the world.

Mahenge Resources Ltd - a subsidiary of Australian-based Black Rock Mining - has completed exploration and is now conducting land and housing evaluation for compensating people who would be affected by the firm's investment.

"I totally accept this new project and already we see the benefits of their presence. I hope our homes will also improve once some of us are compensated to pave the way for the project," said Mr Leonis Sinyambala at Nawenge Village after the firm handed three village offices worth Sh51 million. "This is just the beginning and we have at least gained something. I think a lot more are coming to improve our schools, roads and homes," said Ms Janeth Slivery.

The event gathered people from three villages which received the support and was also attended by local leaders, government mining experts, district officials as well as Minerals Minister Dotto Biteko.

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He challenged mining companies to make sure they link their activities with the livelihood improvement of surrounding communities and the government was keen to see the sector benefiting people.

"We welcome more investors to Tanzania and the government is committed to removing any possible obstacles that challenge the investors. However, companies must make sure that Tanzanians are part and parcel of the projects," urged he.

He said the government was regulating the sector properly and now it has started bringing direct benefits.

"For example, in the previous five years, there were mining activities here but the district council had received only Sh4 million in that span of period," he said.

"We noticed that challenge and intervened. As we speak, in just five months to end of January, the district had received Sh396 million after establishing mineral centres and regulate trading properly," added Mr Biteko at a gathering greeted by rains.

He was also touched by the support of the company to villages saying it's the way to go.

Black Rock Mining chief executive officer John De Vries, who was at the event, said the company was solving resettlement and giving Tanzania government its 16 percent free-carried interest before moving to building the graphite mine.

"As I speak today, we are proceeding with the resettlement action plan process. We recognise that in developing a mine we will disrupt people's lives. For success, we need to be able to offer a better alternative to potentially affected people. This is more than a cash settlement," he said.

"We will not promise things we cannot offer," he added.

Ulanga District officials said they hoped that the investors would help in improving the lives and revenue to the district.

"So far, we have been collaborating with investors and all legal and regulatory requirements will be observed," said Ulanga DC Ngollo Malenya.

"Residents also want to enter into contract with the investors and we are in the process for doing that," she added. Ulanga MP Goodluck Mlinga is also hopeful for the project saying those who want to block it are delaying development to his constituency.

"I know some government officials want to delay the project. I know each one of them. I will list them and hand the names to the minister if they continue behaving that way," he said in the gathering. "Don't play with the interests of my people. The consequences are more dangerous than embracing a live electric transformer," he added to warn the people he accused of sabotaging mining projects.

The government targets to increase the contribution of the mining sector to the economy from about four percent currently to at least ten percent come 2025.

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