Tanzania has up to June next year to modify the boundaries of the Selous Game Reserve — a World Heritage Site — before it can start mining uranium.
The project will be undertaken by an Australian uranium mining firm Mantra Resources, at a cost of $400 million.
Guy Debonnet, head of the special project unit at the World Heritage Centre said the time frame will allow Tanzania to complete the environmental impact assessment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature to evaluate the proposed boundary modification.
“Within this period, the country should also firm up its commitment to secure the Selous-Niassa corridor in the long term,” he said.
Tanzania submitted the proposal to Unesco to modify the boundaries of the Selous Game Reserve in February to pave the way for the mining project.
It involves hiving off 19,793 hectares of the 50,000 square kilometres on the southern boundary of the game reserve.
Tony Devlin, country manager of Mantra Resources told The EastAfrican in Dar es Salaam last week that exploration and drilling works have confirmed the presence of large deposits of uranium in the area.
Mr Devlin said environmental and social baseline studies had been completed and the company had send an environmental and social impact assessment application to the government.
According to Mr Devlin, the company applied for a special mining licence from the Tanzania government to cover the prospecting area in March last year.
“Negotiations with the Ministry of Energy and Minerals regarding the mining agreement are also ongoing,” he said.
The Selous Game Reserve uranium mining project will have an annual gross turnover of about $250 million for 15 years.
Ezekiel Maige, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism said the Selous area would get an annual income of $5 million in fees from the uranium mining firm.
He added that the government would spend about $500,000 in the conservation of the wildlife at the Selous Game Reserve after the project kicks off.
The reserve houses a significant number of elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamus and crocodile.
The reserve also has a variety of habitats including Miombo woodlands, open grasslands, riverine forests and swamps, making it a valuable laboratory for on going ecological and biological processes.
Mary John and John Mbalamwezi