A $400 million uranium mine development project proposed to be built in a world heritage game reserve in Tanzania has been given the go ahead by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
"The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has accepted Tanzania's request to make changes to the territory of the Selous Game Reserve to pave way for uranium mining," Amb. Khamis Kagasheki, Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, said in a statement.
Known for its wildlife, beaches, lodges, and islands, Tanzania is recognized as one of the world's poorest economies in terms of per capita income. But because of strong gold production and tourism, its average gross domestic product (GDP) growth per year from 2000 to 2008 registered at 7 per cent, according to the factbook of the US Central Intelligence Agency. Tanzania’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, comprising more than 40 per cent of GDP, provides 85 per cent of exports, and employs 80 per cent of the work force. GDP growth during 2009-10 registered at 6 per cent per annum due to high gold prices and increased production.
To be built and operated by Australia-based miner Mantra Resources, the proposed uranium mine on the Selous Game reserve will give the Tanzanian coffers an annual gross turnover of at least $250 million for 15 years.
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1982, the Selous Game reserve spans more than 50,000 square kilometres. It is home to the largest population of elephants on the continent, as well as a large number of black rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles, plus grasslands and miombo forests. Its diverse landscape retains undisturbed biological and ecological processes.
In January 2011, Tanzania applied an appeal before UNESCO, asking for permission to change the boundaries of Selous Game Reserve, in light of mining uranium in the area as it claimed was crucial for funding development programs for the country as well as drive its economy.
"The area set aside for the project is hardly 0.8 per cent of the total area, about 200 square kilometres. The Selous Game Reserves covers a total area of 54,600 sq. km., or 21,100 sq mi, and has additional buffer zones," Amb. Kagasheki said.
The Selous uranium mine development project is expected to churn in some $5 million in annual fees versus the game reserve's current yearly income of only $500,000.
At least 54 million pounds of uranium oxide deposits are in Tanzania, government said.
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