Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ethiopia Courts Chinese Investors for Stake in Tantalum Mine

By William Davison
(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia’s government is courting investors from at least four countries including China and Germany to buy a stake in the state-owned company that operates what it says ranks among the world’s top 10 tantalum producers.
The sale of part of the company will help fund the expansion of the Kenticha mine and construction of a factory to process the rare earth metal, Zerihun Desta, general manager of Ethiopian Mineral Development SC, or EMDSC, said in an interview yesterday in Addis Ababa, the capital. Tantalum is used in transistors for mobile phones, computers and digital cameras.
“We are looking for a potential partner who has technology for the value-adding factory and also the economic capability,” he said. Chinese, Swedish, German and South Korean companies are “aggressively looking” at entering into a joint venture with EMDSC, he said, without identifying them.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, is seeking to diversify its economy to reduce its reliance on coffee and other agricultural commodities for most of its export earnings. Mining may become the biggest generator of foreign exchange in “a couple of years,” Zemen Bank, an Addis Ababa-based lender, said in September.
The expansion of Kenticha, 550 kilometers (342 miles) south of Addis Ababa, may quadruple annual tantalum-export revenue to $80 million, Zerihun said. The metal is inexpensive to mine in Ethiopia because of the softness of the rock around the deposit and “cheap” labor, he said. “If the price of tantalum goes down, we will be the last to close,” he said.
Read Full article from BusinessWeek

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