Eritrea has announced plans to capitalise on its recent peace treaty with Ethiopia by building a port to export potassium.
The development would be situated at the Bay of Anfile, 75km east of the $320m Colluli mine planned for the "potash province" of Danakil, which also extends into Ethiopia. At present, the nearest port is Massawa, 230km to the northwest.
An Australian mining company called Danakali has been set up to exploit the deposit, and hopes to become a world leader in the production of sulphate of potash, which is used as a fertiliser. It will work in a joint venture with the Eritrean National Mining company.
The port announcement was made by Alem Kibreab, director-general of mines in the Ministry of Energy and Mines, in an interview with the Bloomberg news organisation. He said a feasibility study was under way, with the start of construction envisaged about five years after Danakali opens its mine. The revenue from that project will provide the basis for financing the port.
Danakali expects construction of the mine to start later this year, and to be complete sometime in 2020, according to Bloomberg, which would put the opening date for the port at about 2025.
Elsewhere in the country, the Sichuan Road & Bridge Company has announced that it will start producing copper, zinc, gold and silver at a mine by early next year, helping further to diversify the country’s tiny agrarian economy.
"We expect by the first quarter of 2019 it will start," Kibreab said at the end of last week. "Operations will be in phases: the first phase will be direct shipments of high-grade copper ore."
The announcements followed a transformation in Eritrea’s economic prospects in the wake of a diplomatic breakthrough in its two-decades-long frozen conflict with Ethiopia. The peace treaty was signed in July an atmosphere of jubilation, by Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea, and Abiy Ahmed, the reformist prime minister of Ethiopia.
If the projects go ahead, it will be another step in the economic transformation of the Horn of Africa, from a zone of chronic instability to one of the most dynamic in the sub-Saharan region, based on the successful development of the Ethiopia, which is the main population centre.
In June, Somalia and Ethiopia announced plans to invest in "four key seaports" and an international highway network as a way of attracting foreign investment, and even the breakaway Republic of Somaliland was the target for a $500m port scheme (see further reading).
Image: The Danakil desert of Eritrea (Ji-Elle/Creative Commons)