ARUSHA, Tanzania, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania to start exploration activities on helium in Lake Rukwa next year prior to the actual production of the rare element on earth, a senior official said Tuesday.
The latest find, estimated at 54 billion cubic feet of helium, according to experts, is a major shot in the arm to global helium reserves which have been running dangerously low, with prices rising by 500 percent in the last 15 years.
Medard Kalemani, Tanzania's deputy minister for Energy and Minerals said in Dodoma during the parliamentary session that preliminary study estimated amount of the helium gas is about six times the current global demand.
He said Helium One Limited, an international conducted gas seeps through Gogota (TZ) Limited and Stahamili (TZ) Limited in western Tanzania's region of Rukwa region, including Lake Rukwa.
"The companies were given license to conduct research for helium in different areas in 2015 while detailed study is still going on," said the deputy minister.
He maintained that actual production would start after the completion of all the necessary studies and environmental impact assessment.
"The government needs to ascertain the amount of gas available before issuing any production licenses," he added.
Despite being the second most common element in the universe, helium is very rare on Earth, as it is only produced from the slow decay of uranium and other elements. Helium has many uses, including in welding, leak detection, nuclear research, cooling systems in medical equipment and the Large Hadron Collider.
Some independent analysts say the recently discovered helium gas in Lake Rukwa could be worth 3.5 billion U.S. dollars.
Last year, scientists from Durham and Oxford universities announced that vast resources of the rare Helium gas had been discovered in Tanzania's Great Rift Valley.
The discovery, described as game-changer, is set to end concerns over a shortage of gas used in medical diagnosis equipment, mainly MRI and in rocket science.
The current global market is thought to be worth 6 billion dollars, with the price of bulk liquid helium rising by 100 percent in the past 10 years, Helium One's statement says.