Tata Chemicals puts Tanzania soda ash JV on hold

Tata Chemicals, which had planned to set up a USD 500 million soda ash manufacturing plant at Lake Natron in Tanzanian in a joint venture with the government of the east African country, has decided t…

Tata Chemicals, which had planned to set up a USD 500 million soda ash manufacturing plant at Lake Natron in Tanzanian in a joint venture with the government of the east African country, has decided to put the project on hold in the face of opposition from environmentalists. “As far as we (Tata Chemicals) are concerned until they (the Tanzanian Government) come back to us, we are not coming”, Tata Chemicals vice chairman R. Gopalakrishnan told the Press Trust of India. Tata Chemicals had formed a joint venture, Lake Natron Resources Ltd., with the Tanzanian government to explore the possibility of setting up a soda ash manufacturing plant on the lake. The plan met concerted opposition from environmentalists, who argued that the plant would alter the mineral balance of the lake and affect the flamingo population. The Tanzanian government“s response was to move the location of the plant 35 kilometers from the lakeshore but the move was again opposed by the environmentalists as it comes under the Ramsar wetland area. “Tanzanian government invited us to come and prospect for soda ash in their Lake Natron Valley. So the joint venture was formed to investigate the possibility of doing so”, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. He said Tata Chemicals would wait for the Tanzanian government to work on the opposition raised by environmentalists and get clearance. “Otherwise we are not coming”, he added. The plant was put on hold in 2007 and the government asked Natron Resources to produce an environment management plan and consider other sites for soda ash extraction. The company has appointed Noroconsult AS (Norway) to carry out an environmental and social impact study.