After a decade of exploration and building a gold processing plant in northern Ethiopia, Ezana Mining has become Ethiopia’s second large scale gold mining company. Named after the popular Ethiopian king from ancient times, the company plans to start trial operation this month at its Terakimti facility, in northern Tigray region, near Shire Endaselassie Town, 1067km from Addis Ababa.
A top official at the company told Capital that they will begin full scale production during the third week of April after the trial is evaluated.
They expect to produce 4.5 kilograms of gold per day, which is considered to be a good start for Ezana, according to experts.
The company has already finished a gold processing plant near the outskirts of Shire.
“Most of the equipment is imported from South Africa and Austria, and it will be installed by Mesfin Industrial Engineering,” a source at the company said. Both of them are under the Endowment Fund for Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT). The plant installation process cost 700 million birr and the installation work took 18 months.
Ezana’s official said they feel successful because of what they have accomplished. They added that the work has been done with local workers except for some mining support from foreign supervisors. “Compared other mining companies ten years is a very short period to explore and start mining,” the official at the company explained.
Tigray has attracted investors because it has precious metals.
Ezana is the first company to discover gold in the northern region and signed a mining agreement in 2012 with the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas.
“We have given trainings for local experts to get involved in the production process, while in the initial production process some crucial positions will be handled by foreign experts until local experts are able to take over the operation,” an employee at the company explained.
“We will have additional projects after we explore more,” a company official said.
So far MIDROC Gold Mine, who bought the state owned Lega Dembi Gold Mine in 1997 at the cost of USD 172 million, is the only company engaged in large-scale gold mining in the country.
MIDROC, a company of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi, has undertaken several new exploration and production endeavors 350km south of Addis Ababa. In 2012 National Mining Corporation (NMiC) the other mining company of Ali Al Amoudi disclosed that it discovered a huge gold resource in Tigray.
A year ago it was reported that an American Mining giant named Newmont Mining Corporation, which is regarded as one of the world’s largest producers of gold is to engage in gold exploration and extraction projects in Tigray.
Gold is one of the major hard currency sources for the country. There is an expectation that up to four new sites will be included in large scale gold production besides Lega Dambi and Terakimti. Artisan mining in different locations has contributed the most to the country’s gold production.
The mining and quarrying sector is highly underdeveloped and its contribution to the GDP was limited to 5.6 percent in 2014/15. Hopes are that mineral extraction will become 10 percent of the GDP within 10 years.