TBY talks to A.H. Mruma, Chief Executive of the Geological Survey of Tanzania, on the importance of mapping the country's geology for mining and more.

A.H. Mruma
A. H. Mruma is the Chief Executive of the Geological Survey of Tanzania, at the Ministry of Energy and Minerals. His diverse career has included tenure as Head of the Department of Geology, at the University of Dar es Salaam and Presidency of the Tanzania Geological Society. He is a member of the National Steering Committee, World Bank Funded “Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project. Mruma is also Board Chairman of the Mineral Resources Institute, and a board member of Williamson Diamonds Limited, the National Development Corporation, and the College of Earth Sciences, University of Dodoma.

What services do you provide for the nation and those involved in resource exploration?

The Geological Survey of Tanzania is a national agency that carries out geological investigations across the country for the purpose of helping mineral developers to move into those areas and perform detailed exploration for investment into natural resources. We also identify natural and geologically related hazards that include earthquakes, volcanoes, and natural radiation from rocks, and offer advice to people on how best to mitigate these natural hazards. We also provide consultancy services to investors through our laboratory. Those interested in developing a certain area in Tanzania can request technical assistance in terms of exploration, mineral analysis, and the evaluation of geological commodities.

How does Tanzania compare in its mineral wealth to neighboring countries?

The country is made up of two main mineral units, including hydrocarbon rocks, which are endowed with solid mineral resources such as diamonds and gold, as well as many varieties of gemstones. Tanzania is the third largest gold producer in Africa, and is the sole producer of tanzanite in the world, as well as of other diverse types of minerals. Along the coast, we have sedimentary basins, the oldest containing excellent coal reserves. On the extreme eastern coast lie our mineral deposits where we have a huge accumulation of hydrocarbons, seemingly of the light hydrocarbon variety. We have plenty of gas, but only traces of liquid hydrocarbons. And yet liquid hydrocarbons lie beneath gas aquifers that cap the liquid hydrocarbons. I expect that during the course of tapping the gas, we would eventually have to raise the bottom levels of liquid hydrocarbons to the level of normal exploration programs. In short, I am not ruling out the presence of liquid hydrocarbons, but they would be beneath the gas hydrocarbons. I am very optimistic that when we begin harvesting the gas hydrocarbons we may indeed find liquid hydrocarbons. Regarding our neighboring countries, a number are comparable to Tanzania in terms of such diversity of wealth. Some have equal levels of minerals, but cannot match us in terms of liquid wealth, and so we have a special status in terms of hydrocarbon deposits. I think this puts us in a very strong competitive position, especially when it comes to attracting investors interested in mineral as well as hydrocarbon resources.

Can you explain your current technology and the future innovations you anticipate?

One distinct area involves the provision of geological mapping services. Most mineral deposits are not located on the surface, and some are very deep, which requires a different technique in order to identify the resources. The second consideration is that we are located in the tropics and, therefore, have a thick layer of soil cover, which presents major challenges to the visualization process. This means that we have to employ different techniques and technologies in the visualization process and for geological surveying. We take soil samples, identify them, and analyze them in terms of the remains of the deposits. The entire process requires sophisticated geological survey methods and technology. It entails sophisticated analytical methods in the laboratory, and explains our state of the art equipment. Different units have different signatures; some rocks are good conductors and some have a high magnetic attraction. Others have remnant magnetic attraction, where electricity is lost and magnetism observed, at which point we resort to specific equipment to assess magnetic variation. On occasion, the inadequate road system requires us to take readings by plane or helicopter in airborne geophysical surveys. Today, we are undertaking a large campaign aimed at improving the volume and coverage of geophysical surveys in order to better understanding central Tanzania.

Tanzania has a set of Vision 2025 goals. How will the extractive industries fit into that vision and how can your organization help the country achieve them?

New mines cannot be developed without our research, and no one can acquire a license without the information that we generate. This means that we are instigating investment, and by looking at the experiences of the recent past, Tanzania has moved from zero production in the early 1990s to being the third largest gold producer in Africa. The mineral industry is contributing over 50% of the growth, and solid profit level increases are being registered. All of these advances are being recorded as a result of detailed exploration, and these mines are only proving to be profitable because they have been heavily explored. As a result, we have devised a campaign of further exploration to discover untapped resources. We are already seeing some anomalies and believe that these may indeed yield results. I am sure that when we release the data at the end of 2013, we will have experienced some substantial growth in terms of investment and licensing. I think that this will lead to increased investment and subsequently more work for us; it will have a multiplier effect. Returning to the use of technology, infrastructure such as roads, as well as buildings and other structures are being built, and I think there is a need for a technical evaluation of the integrity of all foundations to ensure the long life of those structures. We are doing this through the World Bank project and are establishing a technical laboratory that will have the ability to investigate the quality of the bedrock in order to advise people on how safe the land that they are living on is, and also on such structures as telephone towers. Incidentally, our country also boasts good geological sites for tourism. We are publishing articles on geo-tourism; Kilimanjaro, for example, is one place that people cannot and should not overlook. Geology is not only there for the exploitation of minerals, but is also for the purpose of enjoyment and recreation. We are publishing articles on geological places of interest, describing them, and explaining their significance.