Tantalite from the Kenticha mine, located in Ethiopia’s Oromia Regional state, has been mined illegally and removed from the site by unknown parties. Around two tonnes of tantalum concentrate have also been stolen from a four-tonne stockpile of processed material stored at the plant. The value of the stolen concentrate is estimated to be 2M Birr (US$72,700).
The operation is run by Ethiopian Minerals, Petroleum and Bio Fuel Corporation, which was ordered to suspend mining in December 2017 by the local Environment Protection Authority. It was alleged that the mine’s tailings dam had exceeded capacity and was polluting the surrounding area. Some local residents demanded hand-over of the mine site.
The Kenticha operation was established in 2000 and has installed production capacity of 200tpy with plans proposed to double capacity, although actual operating capacity is thought to be lower as a result of aging machinery and financial constraints. Tantalum concentrate is supplied mainly to customers in China.
The Ethiopian government had planned a joint development to ‘develop/upgrade/expand’ the Kenticha operations with a private firm but a tender for the site, floated by the Ministry of Public Enterprise, was withdrawn in May 2018. The Ministry originally floated the international tender to extract and process tantalum and lithium and four companies had shown interest, but Asebe Kebede, deputy director of corporate communications at the Ministry said it had “decided to cancel the bid because all the bidders failed to submit bid security document[s],” and that ongoing local unrest in regard to environmental issues had “not been fully resolved and it will not be wise to process the tender while the problems are unresolved”. The four interested parties were Africa Mining Energy, Novo Lito, CCCC Industry Investment Holding, and Beauty Green Plc. The Kenticha operation is said to be worth US$45-50M.
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