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    BusinessBenishangul-Gumuz to snatch land from mining companies

    Benishangul-Gumuz to snatch land from mining companies

    Date:

    • Increases land lease rates

    The Benishangul Gumuz Regional State announced that it is going to take away massive mining concessions from companies engaged in the exploration and mining of marble deposits in the region.

    Benishangul-Gumuz is known for its high quality marble deposits. More than 160 companies, mostly indigenous mining firms, are engaged in the exploration and development of marble quarries in the Daleti and Metekel zones, some 700km south west of the capital Addis Ababa.

    The Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State Cabinet recently decided that investors working on marble quarries in the region should not possess more than 20 hectares (0.2 sq.km of land). Accordingly, the Mineral Resources Development Board of the region chaired by President Ashadli Hassan last week notified the mining companies of its decision.

    In a letter sent to the Mining companies the Mineral Resources Development Board informed its decision to collect land in excess of 20 hectares. The board requested the investors to handover the land by June 7, 2018. There are many companies which hold hundreds of sq.km of land in the region.  

    The Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State recently revised the mining land lease rate. The region used to charge mining firms 300 birr per sq.km per year. It has now raised the rate to 1000 birr per sq.km. Exploration license holders will now pay 1000 birr per sq.km while mining license holders will pay 5000 birr per sq. km. Royalty fee also surged from three percent to eight percent.

    Local investors engaged in the exploration and development of marble quarries in the Benishangul-Gumuz region are furiously protesting the region’s decision to snatch land excess of 20 hectares. Investors who own marble quarries in the Tsedal, Daleti and Metekel localities told The Reporter that there hundreds of exploration license holders in the region and it was unfair to take the same measure on all the investors. “Most of the companies might have not performed well. But there are many of us who did a remarkable job. And the decision is applicable on all of us,” the investors lamented.  

    The investors who declined to disclose the names of their companies for fear of reprisals said that there are scores of companies which undertook proper exploration work and are engaged in mining activities. “Benishangul is far from the capital. There marble quarries are located in remote areas where there is no infrastructure. We have cleared the bush and built access road. Since there is no electric supply we use generators. We have spent a lot of money on exploration work. It is unfair to tell us to return the land after we invested a huge sum of money to develop the area and prospect for the marble quarries,” the investors said.

    “We have bought machineries and invested heavily on exploration work. So are we going to give the concession to somebody for free?” they asked.

    President of the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, Ashadly Hassen, told The Reporter that the regional state has in the past been distributing land to investors in a very traditional way. “There are many investors who have vast land. By nature mineral resources are found underground. If you dig deep you will find more resources. You do not necessarily need a wide area to find the resource,” Ashadly said.

    The president said that his administration has decided to take the surplus land and redistribute it to new investors who have adequate financial resources to develop the marble quarries.     

    The investors admit that there are many license holders who did not undertake exploration work on their concessions. The regional state should have been able to identify those who have the financial resource to conduct the required investment. “The Mineral Resources Development Board and the Mining and Energy Bureau should have evaluated the performance of the mining companies. Because there are many of us who made quite an investment on exploration projects and started mining. But now the regional state wants to collect the land from all of us indiscriminately. And they did not consult with us before passing the decision,” they lamented.

    However, Ashadly told The Reporter that the exploration license holders who did not undertake exploration work would be treated separately. “We will take appropriate legal action on those who kept the concession idle.”

    Marble quarry holders are now under preparation to lodge their complaints to the regional administration.

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