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Ethiopia suspends tantalum exports

Tigrai Online, May 30, 2012

The state owned Ethiopian Mineral Development SC (EMDSC) and 14 cooperatives, with at least 10 members each, as well as individual locals actively mine in these areas, extract an average of 350 tonnes a year, according to a local newspaper.

The state company extracts about 200 tonnes a year.

The Horn of Africa country has been exporting raw tantalum since 1990. Tantalum fetches US$133.3 a kilogramme on the world market, while the concentrate sells for US$266.

Value additions include turning the mineral into wire or powder before export, to increase revenue.

The ban on tantalum mining, imposed by the ministry of mines, was endorsed as a result of increasing uranium contamination.

And according to certain sources contamination from the radioactive element has lately been growing to such levels that have made it impossible to ship the mineral resource.

As the government seeks to regulate the sector, the ban is expected to lead to stricter controls that would impact government's revenue.

No tantalum will be exported before Ethiopia has an operational processing plant, according to Tamrat Mojo, head of the Traditional Mining Department at the Ministry of Mines, because the government wants to be sure that there will be enough reserves of the mineral when the plant goes operational.

Investment for the processing plant, which is still being studied, could be over US$20 million.

"A search is underway for more of the mineral in other places, but the currently identified reserves contain enough to last about 15 years," said the paper quoting officials.

It was also reported that the government hopes to start exporting 1,000tn a year for 15 years before the reserves are depleted.

There are over a hundred registered tantalum exporters, who buy the mineral directly from traditional miners or through middlemen.

Ethiopia's tantalum exports have been on the rise in the past five years, and has become a significant source of foreign income.

Source: The African Report

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