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www.thereporterethiopia.com By Kaleyesus Bekele
The minerals export sector which was one of the main foreign currency earners until recently is deteriorating further.

According to a six month report presented by the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas (MMPNG) this week, the performance of the mining sector is going from bad to worse. The reported stated that in the past six months the country earned only 60.5 million dollars from minerals export.

According to the six month performance report, mining companies produced and exported 846 kg of gold, 1,569.63 cubic meter of marble and 45.74 tons of tantalum and earned 30.62 million dollars, less by 33.87 percent compared to the foreign currency earned last year in the same period and attained only 33.15 percent of the target set by the Ministry.

In the past six month, artisanal miners produced 500.36 kg of gold, 743.58 kg of unprocessed opal and 207.86 kg of polished opal, 11900 ton other jewelleries and 74.35 tons of tantalum and supplied to the National Bank of Ethiopia and international market brining only 29.89 million dollars, less by 50 percent compared to the foreign currency earned last year in the same period. It also attained only 12.9 percent of the target set by the Ministry.

Officials of the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas deliberated on the poor performance of the sector with employees of the Ministry. The officials attributed the decline in the foreign currency earnings to soaring contraband minerals trade, falling commodity prices and political instability in some minerals producing parts of the country.

Mineral export is one of Ethiopia’s major foreign currency earners. In the heydays, the country used to earn more than 600 million dollars from minerals export, gold contributing the lion’s share. A total of 170 companies are engaged in mineral exploration projects in the country. In 2011-2012 the mining sector earned 618 million dollars from mineral exports – two-third of that coming from artisanal mining. Artisanal miners used to generate 400 million dollars from the export of nine tons of gold annually. There are more than one million artisanal miners in five regional states-Tigray, Oromia, Benishangul, Gambella and Southern regional states.

The minerals export revenue dropped to 340 million dollars in 2013 following the global gold market crash. This has further declined to 230 million dollars last year. The government had planned to garner 800 million dollars from mineral exports yearly in GTP-I and a staggering two billion dollars in end of GTP-II. In a stark contrast, the mineral export is now fetching less than 200 million dollars.

The decline is mainly attributed to falling gold price in the international market. An ounce of gold, which was sold for 1,700 dollars, is now traded at 1200 dollars in the global market. Contraband gold trade has worsened the situation.

MIDROC Gold, the major large scale gold producer, exports its pure gold and silver to Europe, mainly to Switzerland. While artisanal miners’ cooperatives supply their gold to the central bank, the National Bank of Ethiopia.

Industry sources told The Reporter that in addition to the increasing illegal minerals trade the public riots that rocked the Oromia Regional State, a region known for its mineral wealth has deteriorated the performance of the mining sector.

Officials of the MMPNG were not available for comment.

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