in Addis Ababa
source: A Davey
Ethiopia's potential as a source of industrial minerals is
beginning to be realised, with a growing number of exploration
and mining projects underway amid rapidly increasing foreign
The Ministry of
Mines has granted 72 industrial minerals exploration licences,
with 61 going to foreign companies, eight to Ethiopian/foreign
joint ventures and three to local companies. Some 52 mining
licences have also been approved, with 28 to foreign companies,
17 to Ethiopian/foreign joint ventures and seven to local
are for minerals including potash, limestone, marble, pumice,
clay, gypsum, basalt, silica sand and gemstone, salt and soda
ash. Other industrial minerals have also been identified
(see table for quantities).
become the focus of much of the attention in Ethiopia's
industrial minerals sector, with 18 exploration projects
currently underway. The most significant is at the Dallol
potash site in the Danakil depression in the north of the
country, which is being explored by Canadian potash specialist,
The site has
potash resources of approximately 1.3bn tonnes measured and
indicated, at an average grade of 19% KCl (potassium chloride),
with an inferred resource of 588m tonnes, also at 19% KCl, the
company told IM.
includes sylvinite resources of 171m tonnes measured and
indicated, at 31% KCl, with an inferred resource of 47m tonnes,
Allana added. The company is now in the final phases of a
feasibility study, and plans to begin production in late 2014
or early 2015, ramping up to 1m tpa in several
doubled the size of its site last year following a buyout of
Nova-Ethio Potash Corp, increasing the size of its land
acquisition in the Danakil depression to 312 km2
several advantages in mining potash in Ethiopia.
one of the shallowest deposits in the world. The reserves are
consistent at 100 metres, compared with up to two kilometres
elsewhere, so production costs are very low," Farhad Abasov,
Allana Potash president and CEO, told
weather is very hot and dry, with temperatures at between
45-60°C [in the Danakil depression], so it's a great place
for solar evaporation, which also means very low energy costs,"
Due to these
factors, the Dallol potash project will "potentially be one of
the lowest-cost potash operations in the world", Abasov
benefits from its prime location.
be the closest potash producer to India, most of south
east Asia, and most of China," Abasov said.
China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, will be the
major markets for the potash produced at Dallol, with Africa
also being an important market.
needs for potash are in Africa, we will supply them," Abasov
said, adding that the company expects to supply between 50,000
and 100,000 tpa to Africa.
investment needs to continue to increase to power the expansion
of Ethiopia's industrial minerals sector, Tolesa Shagi, state
minister of mines, told IM.
"We have to
work with foreign companies as they have the kinds of
technology and skills that we don't have here in Ethiopia," he
said. "As our economy has become more and more open over the
last few years, many different companies from around the world
have invested here. We need this to continue and for us to work
China, India, Pakistan, Canada, the US, Australia, France, the
UK, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan are currently
undertaking industrial minerals projects in
In addition to
Ethiopia's increasingly open economy, foreign investors have
been attracted by the relative political stability and
competitive investment and taxation codes, the minister said,
adding that improvements in infrastructure is a key
As part of the
country's Growth and Transformation Plan for 2011-15, 72,000 km
of new roads are to be constructed by the end of 2015, while
the power availability is targeted to increase to 8,000 MW by
Two roads have
been specifically built by the government for the Dallol potash
project, linking the site to the port in neighbouring Djibouti,
which land-locked Ethiopia uses to ship export goods, Abasov
said. Another road is planned to link the site with Mek'ele,
the major city in the north of Ethiopia.
government has taken on very significant costs for our project
through the development of the infrastructure,"Abasov said. "It
has taken a lot of weight off our shoulders. The combination of
geology, climate, location and government support in Ethiopia
is very unique."
As well as
export markets, demand is also growing for Ethiopia's
industrial minerals within the country itself, Tolesa added.
While still one of the world's poorest countries, Ethiopia's
economy is now expanding rapidly, with GDP growth at around 7%
during recent years.
shifting towards a more industrialised economy," he said.
"There are several sectors that need industrial minerals here
be an important market for the potash it plans to produce in
the country, Abasov added.
trying to develop its agriculture, so there is huge potential
for potash here," he said. "We are working with the government
to help show people the benefits of potash, especially as a