Dodoma. A two-day multi-stakeholder conference on extractive industries concluded here on Friday, with key actors in Tanzania’s mineral sector emphasising the need for the East African nation to accelerate its just energy transition to fight climate change and ensure the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Taking place under the theme ‘Achieving Just Energy Transition and Sustainable Development in Tanzania’s Extractives Industries,’ the conference was organised by HakiRasilimali, a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) working on strategic advocacy issues around minerals, oil and gas extraction in Tanzania.
It brought together representatives from central and local governments, CSOs, mining companies, artisanal miners across the country and academia. The conference also included members of communities neighbouring major mining activities in Tanzania.
Happening every year, the conference brings together stakeholders to discuss critical issues facing Tanzania’s extractive sector, one of the sectors that contributes significantly to Tanzania’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But stakeholders want the sector to also contribute to the world’s efforts to combat the effects of climate change.
Adam Anthony, HakiRasilimali’s Executive Director, believes that critical minerals found in Tanzania are crucial in contributing to a just energy transition and addressing global challenges, including climate change.
“HakiRasilimali and its stakeholders realise that we must convene a dialogue, discuss and look at the policy challenges [that would hinder the transition],” said Mr Anthony during his opening remarks during the conference. “We also want to discuss how Tanzania can contribute to these global initiatives.”
Mr Anthony explained the link that exists between the mineral and energy sectors, applauding Tanzania’s policy stance on the just energy transition while urging the government to create a more conducive environment for investment, expanding opportunities and capital for locals to invest in the sectors, and improve transparency and accountability in the sectors
A 2021 study by the Natural Resources Governance Institute found that Tanzania has significant deposits of minerals that are considered to be critical to the clean energy transition.
These include nickel deposits discovered in the Kagera region, to an estimation of over 1.52 million tons. Over 18 million tons of graphite reserves are present, mostly in Lindi, Morogoro and Tanga, which is said to be the 5th largest graphite reserve in the world.
Tanzania is also estimated to have about 138 billion cubic feet of helium at its Lake Rukwa Basin, which is said to be the second-largest helium deposit in the world. The country is also reported to have about 2o other deposits of critical mineral deposits in Tanzania, such as copper, lithium, et cetera.
Experts have pointed out that these critical minerals will play an important role in the transition towards renewable and green energy, including in the production of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) plants, Wind Farms, Nuclear Power and Electric Vehicles (EVs), which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus puts the world in a better place to fight effects of climate change.
Tanzania understands this potential, Deputy Energy Minister Judith Kapinga told the conference, saying that the government is “excited” about the country’s critical role in the global transition towards green energy technology.
“The discovery of critical minerals positions us at the forefront of a just transition,” Kapinga, who serves as the Special Seats MP, said in her speech. “Let’s collaborate, share experiences, and work towards a thriving, responsible mineral sector for the prosperity of our nation.”
But to realise these opportunities, experts think that Tanzania will need to take a deeper look at its policy and legal frameworks to ensure proper governance of the sector and a clear identification of its position through a well-tailored strategy on critical minerals.
Afshin Nazir, a Kenyan-based lawyer who serves as an advocacy officer at the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), expressed her frustration at how African countries, including Tanzania, fail to take advantage of their vast critical mineral resources.
“We go to global places, not as the dominant negotiators,” she said during a panel discussion. “We don’t recognise how much value we actually have [as a continent] with these minerals.”
She observed that Africa falls short in effectively making use of the sector, pointing out the continent’s failure to manage it well so that it can work for it, a failure she said countries like Tanzania need to work on to fully benefit from the resources they’re endowed with.
During the conference, participants also raised concerns about how the issue of climate change is discussed in Tanzania, as its gravity is oftentimes diluted by its frequent appearance in casual conversations.
Participants noted that the challenge lies in the popularity of discussing it and in the tangible political actions required to address and mitigate its profound effects, noting that it was crucial for countries to move beyond mere rhetoric and witness genuine political dedication and commitment towards implementing effective measures.
Among other topics discussed during the conference are citizens’ participation in the mining value chain in Tanzania, local content, investment environment, human rights, open contracting and license issuing, women’s participation in the mining sector, and artisanal miners’ role in the national economy.
Jackline Kuwanda is The Chanzo’s journalist from Dodoma, while Lukelo Francis reports from Dar es Salaam.