Tanzania appears likely to strike uranium at Lake Jipe, near the border with Kenya, bolstering its profile as the world’s third largest producer of the radioactive mineral.
The Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency (TMAA) said preliminary findings from ongoing exploration activities show that there are signs of uranium deposits at Lake Jipe, in Mwanga district in Kilimanjaro Region.
“At the moment, geologists are making efforts to establish the quantity and economic viability of the uranium,” said TMAA planning and research development manager Julius Moshi.
Energy and Mineral deputy minister Stephen Maselle said the government would receive the exploration reports soon, but would not give specifics.
Uranium is a relatively common element in the crust of the earth, nearly as common as tin or zinc. It is used as fuel in nuclear reactors and for military applications, such as in shielding material and gyroscopic compasses.
About 64 per cent of the world’s production of uranium from mines is from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
Other uranium deposits have been discovered in Bahi in Dodoma and Manyoni in Singida in central Tanzania.
In April, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals issued a special licence to Mantra Tanzania Ltd, which is owned by Mantra Resources, an Australian subsidiary of AtomRedMetZoloto (ARMZ), a Russian mining firm.
(Read: Russian firm to mine for uranium)
ARMZ is building and operating the Mkuju River uranium mine in southern Tanzania through Uranium One, its Canadian arm.
Mantra Tanzania Ltd has been operating in Tanzania since 2010.
Tanzania, which is Africa’s fourth largest gold producer, also has huge deposits of coal, nickel, iron ore, diamond and gemstones. Tanzania says it has at least 54 million pounds of uranium oxide deposits.
A senior geologist at Mkunju River Project in southern Tanzania, James Magweiga, said that Mkunju is home to uranium deposits of 54,000 tonnes.
Tanzania projects that it can produce 14,000 tonnes of uranium each year, earning $249 million in royalties.
Senior geologist Dalaly Peter Kafumu said should ARMZ indeed produce 14,000 tonnes of uranium, it would make Tanzania the world’s second-biggest uranium producer.
Currently, Kazakhstan is the leading uranium producer in the world, having produced 19,451 tonnes in 2011 accounting for 36 per cent of the world’s total uranium production, according to the World Nuclear Association.
It is trailed by Canada, which produced 9,145 tonnes or 17 per cent of the total production.
According to the International Atomic Energy Association, global uranium mine production increased by over 25 per cent between 2008 and 2010 because of significantly increased production in Kazakhstan.
The increased resource base has been achieved thanks to a 22 per cent increase in uranium exploration and mine development expenditures between 2008 and 2010, which in 2010 totalled over $2 billion.
Mali, Malawi and Zambia are among African countries where uranium exploration companies are currently active.
The IAEA projects that demand for uranium will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
Although the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan has affected nuclear power projects and policies in some countries, nuclear power remains a key part of the global energy mix.
Several governments have plans for new nuclear power plant construction, with the strongest expansion expected in China, India, South Korea and the Russian Federation.
By the year 2035, world nuclear electricity generating capacity is projected to grow by at least 44 per cent.
Accordingly, world annual reactor-related uranium requirements are projected to rise from 63,875 tonnes of uranium metal (tU) at the end of 2010 to between 98,000 tU and 136,000 tU by 2035.
But the IAEA estimates that the current global uranium resource base is more than adequate to meet high-case requirements through 2035.