East Africa: Massive Discovery of Helium Raises Hope

Hopes are high within the Tanzania government that the discovery of helium has a positive impact on Tanzania's future economy for the better.

Following the announcement of the discovery two weeks ago, the Tanzania government has ordered the Helium One Company of Norway to start the drilling of the helium immediately.

Tanzanian minister for energy and minerals, Prof. Sospeter Muhongo, an acclaimed International geologist, said: "I have spoken with Mr. Thomas Abraham-James, the chief executive officer of Helium One and I have urged him to start immediately."

The Norway-based Helium One discovered the gas together with scientists from Durham and Oxford universities in the Southern of Tanzania at Lake Rukwa where 54.2 billion standard cubic feet of the gas had been found. The discovery has been hailed by scientists in the world as timely, given the dwindling in helium reserves.

The Lake Rukwa discovery is considered a major breakthrough of the new approach that was used. It was a combination of prospecting methods from the oil industry other techniques. Scientists believe more helium could be stashed underneath the Great East African Rift Valley.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has also reacted through his Twitter page to the news, calling for extra care in signing contracts with the investors on the project so that Tanzanians benefit from the resources.

"I thank God for the discovery of helium in Tanzania. My call to our experts is that let us prepare ourselves well, especially in the area of the development agreements so that such rare resources help in building our country," President Magufuli said in a tweet.

The US Federal Helium Reserve, which is the world's largest supplier currently, holds 24 BCf of the gas which was set to run out because the gas is not renewable or replaceable and no deposits have ever been found before.

Helium was found accidentally in oil and gas wells during exploration. Current global consumption stands at around 8 BCf a year.

The gas is used for medical diagnosis in MRI scanners in hospitals and in rocket science. The Tanzanian deposits are enough to fill over 1.2 million medical MRI scanners.

Source: East African Business Week