It will train miners engaged with marble extraction to add value

Mar 14 , 2020

In contrast, the industry provides livelihoods for 177,000 people who are involved in small-scale mining, while 2,000 people are formally employed by mining companies.

A joint effort between the government and development partners is set to open a centre of excellence that will train miners engaged in marble extraction, in Assosa, Benshangul-Gumuz Regional State.

The Ministry of Mines & Petroleum, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Italian Embassy, completed the preliminary study last week.

The preliminary study, which took three years to complete, was conducted by a group composed of members from the Ministry, the Italian Embassy and Italian companies that specialise in marble production. The team, which identified a massive marble resource, tabled the finding to the head of the Regional State.

The study aims to minimise the waste of marble during production by training human resources and equipping workers with modern technology, according to Kiros Alemayehu, public relations & communications director at the Ministry.

"Ethiopia imports value-added marble at 10 to 15 times the price of the raw material," said Kiros. "The centre would minimise this cost."

The regional government decided to upgrade one of the technical vocational training and education schools to create the centre. The cost of transforming the TVET into the centre of excellence, which will take a year, will be covered by the Regional State, the Ministry, UNIDO and mining companies that are operating in the area. It will be equipped with modern marble processing machinery and a new curriculum.

"The Regional State will notify us about which vocational school will be used for the centre in the coming two weeks," said Kiros.

Marble is found scattered in different places throughout the country, including Mora, Daletei, Baruda, Parzeite, Manden and Bulene in Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, Hulkani in Tigray Regional State and Mentawoha in the Amhara Regional State.

In the country, 12 companies have secured licenses for the extraction of marble. These companies secured licenses from the federal institution and all of them are operating in Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State.

Over the past couple of years, the export revenue generated from the mining sector has been significantly dropping. Six years ago, the export of mineral products earned 650 million dollars, but it sharply fell to 49 million dollars in the last fiscal year. In the first half of this fiscal year, the sector generated only half a billion Birr. Corrupt practices and pilfering have been blamed for the decline.

To rescue the sector's declining revenue, the Ministry formed a national steering committee. The 12 members of the committee from the Ethiopian Geological Survey, Mining, Oil & Biofuel Corporation and the Ministry of Mines & Petroleum will be tasked with assessing the problems of the sector and suggesting policy reforms for the industry. The center of excellence is also part of the Ministry's effort to increase export revenues from minerals.

As of the last fiscal year, there were a total of 207 businesses with licenses to engage in the mining sector. In contrast, the industry provides livelihoods for 177,000 people who are involved in small-scale mining, while 2,000 people are formally employed by mining companies.

Mulugeta Alene (PhD), an associate professor at Addis Abeba University’s School of Earth Science for more than two decades, believes that the marble centre is delayed but will have a significant impact on the mining sector.

"The centre will help companies add value to their product and improve the quality of marble," Mulugeta said. "The centre should be linked to higher educational institutions."

PUBLISHED ON Mar 14,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1037]

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