Vice-President Dr. Mohamed Ghalib Bilal, who is a nuclear physicist, has cleared misconceptions being spread by some sections of the public that the Mkuju River uranium project in Namtumbo will cause harm to the local communities in the future, saying that was not true.
The vice president, who is a former lecturer on the subject at the University of Dar es salaam, said the project would not have cause any harm to the employees and the local communities, pledging government support for the project.
He stressed that Tanzania had enough experts and capabilities, through the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission, to deal with radiation matters for the safety of the employees, the public and the environment.
Dr. Bilal was speaking during a visit to the Mkuju River uranium project site in Namtumbo on Wednesday as part of his official tour of Ruvuma region, during which he will inspect a number of development activities.
“The government will be looking forward to working with Mantra Tanzania in the development of the project for the interest of the people in Namtumbo and the country as a whole," he said..
Speaking at a public rally at Likuyu-Seka-Maganga, which is the nearest village to the project site about 60km away, the vice-president said; “We want to thank Mantra Tanzania for complying with all the necessary requirements and engaging key agencies in the early stages of the project. My call to you is to engage our youths in pursuing mining-related subjects and researches, especially in the field of radiation, environment and mining, which will help us produce experts in the field,” Dr Bilal urged.
He further said that those who argued that uranium in the area was harmful should instead come up with better reasons to support the project since its objective was to take away what they presumed harmful.
“Much talk has been said about this project, but the truth is that human beings are being exposed to radiation on a daily basis. People with ill-intentions say uranium is dangerous, but why should they worry since we have got someone to take away what they perceive to be dangerous to our lives?” he wondered.
Earlier, executive vice-president of Uranium One Inc, a Canadian company which is the operator of Mantra Tanzania, John Sibley said the project would have an annual production of 4.2 million pounds (1,900), with the potential to expand production in the second phase.
“The project will be the first major mining development in south eastern Tanzania and will bring in significant benefits, including foreign direct investment of USD 450 million, creating up to 1600 jobs during the construction phase and USD 250 million in annual foreign currency receipts,” he said.
Sibley said the transition from exploration to development of the project, construction and mine production would depend on the granting of a number of required permits and approvals from both within and outside Tanzania.
“The permitting focus is on government of Tanzania’s application to the World Heritage Committee filed some weeks ago for a minor adjustment to the southern boundary of the Selous Game Reserve.
“It is important to recall that the total project area affected by the minor boundary adjustment inclusive of a buffer zone amounts to only 0.81 per cent of the total Selous Game Reserve area,” he added.
The company executive complimented the government of Tanzania for its efforts to put all the required legislations in place in readiness to become a uranium producer.
He also commended the government for the significant steps it had taken to prepare for the advent of a uranium industry in Tanzania.
The Ministry of Energy and Minerals gazetted Mining Regulations for Radioactive Minerals in 2010. The Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, through the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission, has also gazetted regulations relating to ensuring the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The vice-president was briefed on safety, health and environment management and on the geological works done at Mkuju by safety officer Nassor Said, environmental manager Johnnie Ntukula and chief geologist Emmanuel Nyamusika.
According to Nyamusika, the radiometric and geophysic surveys which were carried out proved that the uranium mineral deposits in the area were close to surface, thus making the extraction and working environment easier and safer.