ADDIS ABABA (AA) – New discoveries of mineral wealth made in 2014 are attracting a flock of international mining companies and investors.
Ethiopia discovered 20 new mineral deposits, including gypsum, limestone, marble and potash in 2014. Seven were in the Gugi zone, six in south-west Oromia, six in Holeta and Meki, and one in Wolkite town in the south, according to the Geological Survey of the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Over 250 foreign firms from across the globe, including Ametrade, the U.K. Mining Company, Kefi Minerals, China Minerals, United Management, Israel Chemicals, and Venmyn Rand have flocked to the country to exploit the newly found deposits, according to the Ethiopian Mining Directory.
“Liberalization of the laws governing foreign investment in the country is starting to pay off,” commented Mathias Mphande, a mining Engineer and Former University of Zambia dean at the School of Mines.
Gold mining is currently attracting the most attention, Mphande said, and the Ethiopian government is supporting an increase in gold production to over 500 tons per year.
A recent survey by the World Bank estimated that gold production could rise to 900 tons a year, which would bring in earnings of about $1.7 billion.
But there are still vast areas of the country that have not been explored for minerals, Mphande said.
According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF)’s Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, the development of mineral resources in Ethiopia will be key to that country’s export-oriented growth strategy and will allow it to diversify its economy, including reducing its reliance on agriculture.
In addition to gold, Ethiopia has reserves of platinum, copper, potash, and natural gas. For now, however, the mineral industry is not a significant sector of the economy, contributing less than 1 percent to GDP.
Mphande also noted that there are tantalum resources which have attracted Chinese investment in Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia has the potential to produce over 17,000 tons of tantalum,” Mphande said. Tantalum is a key mineral in electronics production.
But further investment will be needed to fully exploit the country’s mining resources, Mphande pointed out.
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