The attempt made by the Ethiopian government to jointly build a manufacturing plant and develop the Kenticha Tantalum Mine with private firms has failed due to the cancellation of the tender floated by the Ministry of Public Enterprise, this week.
The Ministry floated an international tender a while back inviting companies to extract tantalum and lithium minerals as well as involve in the value addition of these products in a joint venture with the Minerals Development Enterprise SC, a state enterprise under the Mining, Petroleum and Biofuel Corporation.
For years, the Enterprise has been extracting tantalum mineral in Kenticha mine, located in Borena Zone of the Oromia Regional State.
In this respect, four companies had shown interest to jointly work with the government to develop the mine, which were Africa Mining Energy, Novo Lito LTD, CCCC Industry Investment Holding and Beauty Green Plc.
According to the Enterprise, the total worth of the factory is estimated to be between USD 45 and USD 50 million. The Enterprise has so far settled around 53 hectares of land which is said to be used for the construction of the factory.
Following the interest, the Ministry has been looking into the offers made by those companies. However, as of this week, the Ministry has decided to cancel the tender and postpone it to a later date.
“We decided to cancel the bid because all the bidders failed to submit bid security document,” said Asebe Kebede, deputy director of corporate communications at the Ministry.
However, according to sources, the Ministry made such a decision due to issues surrounding the Kenticha mine yet to be resolved.
“For instance, at the moment, the mining site has stopped producing,” said the same source from the Ministry. Hence, it would not be good to proceed with the bid.
It is to be recalled that the Mine has halted production in November, 2017, following the unrest in Oromia region where youths in the area were asking for the handover of the tantalum extracting sites. As a result of this, the Corporation was forced to shut down the site which cost it millions of dollars.
“These problems have not been fully resolved and it will not be wise to process the tender while the problems are unresolved,” said the same source.
The Corporation and particularly the Enterprise has been generating USD 20 million in revenues per year from the export of tantalite concentrate. The Enterprise has been producing tantalite concentrate for the past 28 years. Currently, the Enterprise has the capacity to produce 200 tons per year and has a plan to double its capacity.