Lake Natron mining plant must be built: Tanzania leader

Yahoo News 2 Apr 11;

DAR ES SALAAM (AFP) – A soda ash mining plant planned for Tanzania's Lake Natron, the breeding ground for all of east Africa's endangered lesser flamingoes, must go ahead, President Jakaya Kikwete said Saturday.

"There is no need for further delay of the project, which will give the country's economy a big boost," Kikwete said.

Kikwete, who was addressing officials at the trade and industry ministry, said Lake Natron's reserves of soda ash deposits were big enough to make Tanzania the world's leading producer of the product.

The plant, which will be able to process up to 500,000 tonnes of soda ash annually, has attracted criticism from environmentalists who argue the project and its associated infrastructure will destroy the flamingoes' breeding ground.

Like all flamingoes the birds lay a single egg on a mound of mud.

Kikwete argued, however, that destruction of the breeding grounds could be avoided.

"We cannot continue with poverty while we have vast resources, including our minerals that are lying untapped. We can just apply the right technology that is not harmful to flamingoes," he said.

Industry minister Cyril Chami has said that the relevant environment and social impact assessments should be completed by the end of April.

The plant, which is to be built and operated by Tata Chemicals of Mumbai, and which will feature a grid of pipes running across the lake as well as infrastructure for workers on the shore, was put on hold in 2008 on environmental concerns.