A government-owned prison facility in Mbeya region that is reportedly sitting on a vast deposit of rare and precious mineral ores, is now drawing the attention of some foreign mining companies already operating in the country.
It is understood that a couple of mining firms have expressed keenness to gain access to the land where the Songwe prison is located and check it out.
Initial reports had it that as a result of this curiosity, a conflict of sorts was brewing between the local prisons authorities and the foreign mining companies.
However, these reports have been dispelled by the Principal Commissioner of Prisons, Augustine Nanyaro, in a telephone interview with THISDAY.
Nanyaro said the prisons administration is actually prepared to vacate the Songwe area to pave way for mining activities if and when necessary.
He stated further that the procedures for releasing the land to the ’’investor’’ are progressing well.
’’It is the ministry (of energy and minerals) that is handling all the procedures and information concerning the investor,’’ Nanyaro said.
The prisons chief appeared at pains to emphasize that his department is ready to release the land to mining companies after the conclusion of all necessary preparations.
Mining records show that large quantities of niobium, a rare mineral, have been discovered on Panda Hill in Mbeya region.
The area is believed to have about 90 million tonnes of niobium.
The entire southern highlands area is known to be rich in various mineral deposits including coal, iron, gypsum, marble, and others.
The Songwe prison facility is located some 40 kilometres outside of Mbeya municipality. The prison primarily uses its land for farming activities.
The prisons department has been occupying the area since the 1960s.