Fresh concerns as Tanzania makes mineral discoveries in Selous reserve

Animals in the Selous game reserve, Tanzania. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Animals in the Selous game reserve, Tanzania. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Dar es Salaam

Fresh environmental concerns loom over the discovery of several minerals in the Unesco-designated Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania.

Conservation experts are already opposed to the planned Stieglers Gorge hydropower plant within the reserve, on its likely interference with the ecosystem.

On Monday, the government invited tender bids for large-scale logging in the area to pave way for the hydropower dam.

The discovery of the new minerals was revealed by the Geological Survey of Tanzania (GST) in an interview with The Citizen recently, hinting that environment conservationists would be up in arms when the need to extract them arises.

Senior GST geologist Solomon Maswi named the discovered minerals as base metal, copper, silver, cobalt, zinc and gold.

He, however, noted that mineral extraction could take a few decades before happening, depending on advancement of technology.

Mr Maswi said that to extract the minerals with the current technology would be expensive, adding that it would take a few decades to start mining them efficiently.

“We anticipate that with technological changes, there will come a time when we can easily mine the discovered minerals,” he said.

February survey

GST did a survey last February in areas close to the Selous Game Reserve, specifically at the boundaries of the reserve in Malinyi and Mahenge Districts in Morogoro region.

“After completing our survey, we took samples of the soil and rocks found at the site to our laboratory and after our primary investigation it was revealed that there were precious minerals at the sites,” he said.

However, he noted that according to their analyses it would take a long time to attract investors because there are doubts about their quantity.

Tanzania had already discovered Uranium in the Selous ecosystem and plans to mine mineral at Mkuju River close to the reserve are afoot.

The Game Reserve is listed as of the World Heritage Site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

However, at its 36th session in St Petersburg, Russia, in July 2012, the Unesco’s World Heritage Committee approved an application by the government of Tanzania for a minor adjustment to the boundary of the game reserve to facilitate the mining of Uranium.

Tanzania is rich in natural resources, which include metals (gold, iron ore, nickel, copper, cobalt, silver), industrial minerals (diamond, tanzanite, ruby, garnet, limestone, soda ash, gypsum, salt, phosphate, gravel, sand among others.

Mining makes up more than 50 per cent of the country’s total exports, of which a large part comes from gold.