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Corporation loses USD 2.3 million due to mine closure

-JV tender will be opened on Monday

The Minerals, Petroleum and Bio Fuel Development Corporation has lost 2.3 million dollars due to the Kenticha tantalum mine dispute, The Reporter has learnt.

The state owned company produces tantalum concentrate at Kenticha tantalum mine found in the Oromia Regional State, Guji Zone, Seba Boru Wereda, Kenticha locality 600kms south of Addis Ababa. The Kenticha mine has an installed capacity of producing 174 million tons of tantalum concentrate. However, due to the ageing machineries and financial constraints the production capacity has been limited to only 100 tons.

Last year, the Corporation exported 95 tons of tantalum concentrate and earned 2.7 million dollars. In the wake of the public riots that rocked the Oromia dispute erupted between the tantalum mine managers and local administration. The local residents accused the Corporation of polluting the environment with mine waste. In December 2017, the local administration ordered the mine managers to close the mine operation.

Sources told The Reporter at the time that the local administration has attempted to grant the mine to local youth cooperatives as part of the Oromia Regional State’s effort to quell the youth quest for employment opportunities. Since, January 2018, the mine stopped production of tantalum concentrate.  

Presenting a nine month performance report to the House of Peoples Representatives (HPR) on Thursday, Girma Amente (PhD), minister of Public Enterprises, told MPS that the country has lost 2.3 million dollars in the past four months due to the mine closure. Girma said the Corporation was supposed to mine 40 tons of tantalum and earn 2.3 million dollars from the sale of tantalum concentrate in the past four months. According to Girma, efforts to resolve the matter through dialogue could not be successful so far. “We will keep on looking for amicable solution,” he told the MPs.

The minister of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Motuma Mekassa, on his part, told The Reporter that his ministry is working with the Oromia Regional State and the mining firm in resolving the disputes with the local communities. “The Kenticha tantalum mine problem is related to the silt and water dam which is holding water and silt beyond its capacity. The local communities are worried that if the water over flows it will afflict them,” Motuma said.

However, the minister poised that shutting down the mines is not a solution. “So, we are closely working with the Oromia Regional State, local administrations and the mining firm to amicably solve the dispute,” Motuma said. 

Sources also told The Reporter that the Kenticha tantalum mine issue has been presented to the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed (PhD), and President of the Oromia Regional State, Lemma Megerssa.

In related news, the Ministry of Public Enterprises will open the bid it recently floated inviting international mining firms which are interested to jointly develop the Kenticha tantalum mine and build a factory that produces value added products from tantalum concentrate. Sources close to ministry said that the bid attracted a number of international mining firms from Europe and Asia.