According to Tanzania Daily News, the Tanzanian government’s controversial plan to construct a soda ash mine on Lake Natron has hit a new roadblock. The Japanese firm Sumitomo Chemicals recently brought a patent-like legal claim on soda ash extraction at the lake. Together with Nippon Sheet Glass, Sumitoto recently purchased a 20% ownership stake in FMC, a Philadelphia-based soda ash manufacturing company. Japanese demand for soda ash is currently 1.4 million tons annually, and that is expected to rise steeply in coming years, in pace with an increased demand by Japanese glass manufacturers who serve the Asia-Pacific region.
As we’ve detailed in earlier postings, Lake Natron is a critical breeding ground for the lesser flamingo, and conservationists have warned of significant consequences of mining in this delicate environment.