Bunge enters mineral sand fray

NATIONAL Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai yesterday promised to form a special committee to look into the trade and value chain of exported mineral sand for smelting.

Speaking during his visit to the Dar es Salaam Port, Mr Ndugai said the envisaged committee, its members and responsibilities will be announced during the budget session expected to start next month.

The Speaker witnessed over 260 detained containers full of mineral sand at the port, following President John Magufulis ban on their export. The mineral sand is a concentrate of gold, silver and copper.

We will announce the committee during the budget session, because we cannot do that right now for we have to sit down and discuss with other members. We want to know about the trade and its beneficiaries, he stressed.

He said Members of Parliament (MPs) were shocked by the unearthed high number of mineral sand containers at the port. Tanzanians need to know about this mineral sand trade, who has been benefiting from it since it began in 1998, he queried, noting that the committee will also look into investment in the mining sector in its totality, including contracts, legislations and how Tanzanians benefit from the mineral sand.

Mr Ndugai said the amount of gold in the exported sand is negligible as compared to copper and silver, wondering why the investors have been exporting thousands of sand containers. We cannot understand why the investors continue exporting thousands of sand containers to extract gold whose content is merely 0.02 per cent, he charged, adding: It is high time we safeguarded the interest of Tanzanians through our natural resources.

Referring to Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency (TMAA) report, Mr Ndugai said over 50,000 sand containers were shipped abroad annually, translating into over one million containers since 1998.

We would like to know who supervises and protects the interests of Tanzania from the source point where the sand is collected to its destination abroad... we must act against the indiscriminate shipping of our riches away. Why should Tanzanians continue wallowing in poverty, with donor dependency budget, he stressed.

The Speaker said the parliament move will not affect the governments strategies to deal with the issue. But, the National Assembly through the special committee will come up with recommendations.

During the tour of the containers, Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) Director General Engineer Deusdedit Kakoko expressed surprise over continued transportation of the mineral sand to the port despite the presidential directive, which he termed a decree.

We have detained these containers because President Magufulis ban is a decree... a law. We expected other agencies to stop processing documents for the sand containers as well, yet we keep receiving them, some fully processed for shipping out, he explained.

Eng Kakoko said after Dr Magufuli visited the port, over 250 sand containers were unearthed already lined up for shipping out, charging that he believed 90 per cent of the sand is gold and not copper as TMAA officials claim.

TMAA acting Managing Director Engineer Gilay Shamika said contents in the mineral sand are 90 per cent copper, 0.02 per cent gold and 0.08 per cent silver, noting that they participated in the whole process, including taking samples and ascertaining the contents before the investors paid the respective revenues to Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

Once we are satisfied of the contents and the investors have paid the respective revenues, TMAA and TRA seal the containers, he explained. The Acacia Mining, Tanzanias biggest gold producer, was quoted in the media saying that it was incurring an average daily loss of over one million US dollars (over 2bn/-) in revenue at its two mines in Tanzania due to the governments ban on exports of gold and copper concentrate.

Acacia said since the ban was enforced on March 3, 2017, it has been compelled to take a range of actions to mitigate the financial impact while ensuring continued safe operations at Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi mines.

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