Ministry of Mining and Energy: Appraising 20 Years Of Performance
In continuation of the symposiums underway at national level, the Ministry of Mining and Energy will hold its symposium in the port city of Massawa from 29 to 31March. In the course of the three-day symposium, the Ministry would assess its endeavors to implement set out goals, the shortcomings and discuss future work programs. The Director of General of the Mining Department, Mr. Alem Kibreab, and the director General of Energy Department in the Ministry, Mr. Samuel Baire, have conducted interviews as regards the overall activities of the departments following independence. Excerpts follow:
What is the ultimate objective of the Energy Department?
Mr. Samuel Baire: The primary vision is to ensure the provision of reliable and efficient energy supply to the entire society. According to the study conducted in 1993, 80% of energy used in the country is obtained from biomass. Thus, providing alternative source of energy and making optimal use of the available of energy source in which the society could get easy access and thereby improve their living standard might be a long journey. Nevertheless, the department is making vigorous endeavors towards translating its agenda on the ground.
Tell us the major tasks implemented in the departments of mining and energy?
Mr. Alem Kibreab: As we all know Eritrea is blessed with boundless natural resources that have yet to be explored. Despite the fact that the modern and traditional mining activities were carried out from early on in the country, it had remained undeveloped until independence. So, it was necessary for the Government of Eritrea to conduct research to gather information and map out applicable policies and strategies. As a result of continuous efforts, the Bisha site was discovered in 2002 among others. It is very rare to find a mining site such as Bisha with gold on top, then copper and then zinc. This project began within the past seven years and attracted many foreign investors. Already 20 mining companies have been licensed to work in the mining sector.
Mr. Samuel Baire: Energy supply was not at the desired level by all means during early independence period. The department outlined a 5-year strategic plan focusing on exploring natural resources for alternative energy, biomass and geothermal and maximize its advantages. Smokeless ovens were introduced in number of villages which are playing significant role in maintaining sound ecology and ensuing health of the society. Moreover, the Higrigo Power Plant was constructed and power distributing stations of Barentu, Tessenei, Adi-Keih and Assab were upgraded as well as connecting lines of 66,000Kb, 33,000 KB, 15,000 KB were introduced. The 110 volt line was changed into 220 volt, besides distributing new electricity lines. Previously, only less than 10% out of the population were obtaining electricity supply with less than 30 mega watt. Currently, about 33% out of the population have access to power supply with the installation of 134 mega watt. New electricity supply was installed to around 200 villages in Dekemhare, Adi-Keih, Keren, Mendefera and Himbirti, Mekerka, Elaberad and Serjeka.
How would you evaluate the registered development?
Mr. Samuel Baire: The Government has made huge investment to ensure energy supply. Through the expansion of electricity, many urban and rural areas are marching on the path of development and business enterprises are blooming. Along this, fuel jetties have been repaired. And gas tankers with a capacity of holding 1,000 tone in Massawa. The department is also striving to develop alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar. 25 meteorology stations were set up to gather adequate data so as to develop wind and solar energy. Eritrea has potential in wind energy. For instance, Assab to Tio and Asmara area could produce enough wind energy for power supply. There are three wind energy stations in Assab that have capacity of producing 750KW, which covers 20% of the fuel exhausted in electricity. Not only this, the installation of wind turbines would be important for enhancing our knowledge and get acquitted with the relevant technological. We can install major projects of wind energy plants. Aside, we have conducted to identify the potential we have on geothermal energy and the finding were encouraging for future.
What has been done so far to upgrade manpower capacity?
Mr. Samuel Baire: Various trainings and lectures were organized to upgrade capacity of staff members as well as beneficiaries. We have Training Center of Renewable Energy in Adi-Segdo and there is a plan to introduce energy as a course in school curriculum.
Mr. Alem Kibreab: Exploring and mining mineral resources requires both financial and human power capacity. Mining degree program in the Eritrean Institution of Technology has commenced to address shortage of skilled manpower, in addition to the geology program in higher educational institutions. This educational program would be further reinforced to meet the needed skilled manpower in all fields.
What are the future work plans of these departments?
Mr. Samuel Baire: Efforts would be intensified to develop and extend renewable energy across the country. Rural electricity provision program would also be continued extensively. There is a plan to build a new tanker with a capacity of holding 2,000 tone of gas, besides small tankers and fillin station are under construction in Keren, Dekemhare, Mendefera and Barentu towns.
Mr. Alem Kibreab : Reviving mining sector by itself was great achievement which would play significant role in the economic development. For the past 20 years, the Eritrean Government has been engaged in collecting information, outlining policies and creating viable environment for foreign investors. We are now beginning to witness the fruits of the strenuous efforts exerted thus far.