Arusha. Over 2,000 tonnes of graphite, a crystalline mineral, are reported to have piled up at the Mirerani mines in Simanjiro District, Manyara Region for lack of an export market.
Officials of the mine confirmed early this week that they were incurring huge losses due to failure to export the mineral, which is used for the production of batteries, among others.
“We are spending about Sh250 million a month as operational costs. Yet we have not been able to export even a tonne in recent weeks”, said Godlisten Mwanga, the director of Godmwanga Gems Limited. One tonne of graphite costs $1,300 in the international market.
He told the visiting Minerals minister, Ms Angellah Kairuki, that they had been told the quality of the processd mineral could not meet the international standards required.
However, he said they were not sure if the graphite stockpile at the mine had been properly assessed to be disqualified as claimed by officials of the Tanzania Mining Commission (TMC).
Mr Mwanga said at one time the Geological Survey of Tanzania (GST) took samples of their graphite and came up with another assessment, which also differed with the samples he took to China.
He pleaded with the minister to intervene on the matter and ensure the company secured reliable markets abroad for their graphite so that it could benefit the economy.
However, the Commissioner of Minerals, Eng. David Mlabwa, declined to clarify on the quality of the said graphite from the firm’s mines but hinted that its quality may be inferior due to the water content.
Graphite occurs in metamorphic rocks as a result of the reduction of sedimentary carbon compounds and also in igneous rocks and in meteorites.
The world prodcution of natural graphie was 1.2 million tonnes in 2016. Major exporters include China, India, Brazil, Turkey and North Korea. The United States produces synthetic graphite.
Tanzania is considered one of the biggest potential sources of graphite in the world, according to preliminary surveys by prospectors sponsored by Australian investors.
Early this year, it was reported that 5.1 million tonnes of reserves had been found in Mahenge District, Morogoro Region. Most other reserves are also in the south of the country.
On Wednesday, Australia-based Volt Resources announced that Bunyu graphite project would deliver a pre-tax net present value of $18.6 million from the vast resources of graphite ores.
Speaking to employees of Godmwanga Graphite Mines, the minister warned the government would not tolerate mining officers who would collude with dishonest miners to smuggle minerals out of the country.
She said already over 40 officials in the ministry had been subjected to disciplinary action after it was found they were behind illegal exports of the precious minerals.
Ms Kairuki directed that minerals dealers should pay the required tax and levies and urged the locals to reveal to the government agencies that evaded tax.