A local company engaged in the manufacturing sector, Danakil Industrial, is to set up a salt processing plant with an out lay of 331 million birr in the Afar Regional State, Berhale Wereda.
Danakil Industrial is a sister company of TTK detergent factory. Samuel Kassa, owner and managing director of TTK and Danakil Industrial, told The Reporter that the Danakil salt processing plant aims at producing industrial salt, animal feed and table salt from the massive rock salt deposit in the Danakil Depression Berhale Wereda, Hamedelah locality. Samuel said the factory will have a monthly production capacity of 500,000 quintals of salt – 30 percent industrial, 20 percent animal feed and 50 percent table salt.
The factory will be built in Berhale town, 890 km north east of Addis Ababa and only 108 km away from Mekelle, the regional capital of Tirgrai Regional State. Danakil Industrial has secured a 20,000 sq. m of land from the Berhale City Administration for the construction of the modern slat factory. According to Samuel, the salt processing machineries will be imported from India and Spain. “We have already entered into an agreement with the suppliers. The civil work will be undertaken by a local construction company. In two weeks time we shall start land clearing work. The construction work and commissioning will take only six month. We will start supplying our products to the local market after six months,” Samuel told The Reporter.
Danakil Industrial plans to supply the industrial salt to the local leather industry, detergent and chemical factories. “As we are involved in the manufacturing sector we know that there is shortage of industrial salt. We buy industrial salt for our detergent factory in Gelan Industrial Zone and we know the challenge of getting industrial salt at affordable price. Actually that is how we came up with the idea of venturing into salt production,” Samuel said.
Danakil Industrial plans to supply the animal feed salt to animal farms and farmers in all the regions. The company contemplates to provide high quality table salt to the local market as well as to the international market. “After satisfying the local demand we want to export the industrial salt and table salt. We have already made an agreement with a Dubai based company called Ligo International which has shown an interest to distribute our products.”
The Danakil Depression is known for its reach rock salt deposit. Native people have been traditionally mining the rock salt for centuries. A study undertaken by the Chemical Society of Ethiopia and the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas indicates that the rock salt is the best natural common salt. “This was proved by comparison with the chemical requirement and trace elements in common and table salt set by the Ethiopian Quality and Standards Authority,” a chemical analysis conducted by the Chemical Society of Ethiopia said. However, the report said during excavation together with the rock salt some soil, mud and other contaminants are found that require further processing or separation. “With minor treatment of the rock salt it is possible to get common salt that meets the requirement of Ethiopian Quality and Standards Authority. With further treatment it is also possible to get table salt from the same deposit,” the report said.
The Danakil Depression has a salt plain of 8,000 sq. km out of which 1200 sq. km is actually covered by salt. The rock salt deposit is estimated at over one billion tons, the largest salt deposit in the world, according to the study.
The report indicated that traditional miners mine only a small part of the rock salt deposit applying primitive mining method. However, the Ministry of Mines requires preparing all the necessary conditions for the deposit to be further explored in detail in its reserve evaluation and make it ready to promote for mining investors.
Despite the existence of ample reserves, sufficient to meet the national requirements for a long time the country continues to import common salt. It is believed that beyond the benefits of gaining self-sufficiency in this most essential and primary requisite for life of human and animals, there are also advantages with which the local community and the country could benefit if exploration of the salt deposit is carried out at large scale.
Samuel said that Danakil Industrial will buy the rock salt from the local community and process it in the factory to meet the required quality standards. So far the artisanal miners work under harsh climate with primitive production methods for meager income. “The area is one of the hottest places on the planet. It goes up to 50 degree Celsius. So the artisanal miners work only in the cool season. They transport the rock salt from Hamedelah to Berhale 60 kms by camel. We will provide them with machineries and transport vehicles,” Samuel said.
Samuel said the factory would open 250 job opportunities but beyond that the factory would create a market for local artisanal miners. “They will have a better mode of production and they will make decent revenue. Three rock salt producers associations agreed to supply rock salt to Danakil Industrial. “We were consulting with the associations and elderly people within the community for the past three years,” Samuel said.
Samuel acknowledged the regional authorities for their unwavering support to the planned investment project. Once Danakil builds the salt factory and start production it will build a PP Bag manufacturing plant that would produce packaging material for salt. The PP bag will be supplied to Danakil’s factory and other salt producers in the region.
Danakil’s sister company TTK which was established six years ago with an initial investment capital of 35 million birr produces soap, shampoo and cleaning materials and supply the products to the local market. The company has raised its capital to 120 million birr and built a packaging material manufacturing plant in the Gelan Industrial Zone.