Tanzania is expected to begin mining uranium next year when a new law comes into force aimed at increasing uranium operations and reducing sector reliance on gold.

An official from the Tanzanian Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development said a government committee is finalising work on a new legal framework for uranium exploitation.

Australia-based Mantra Resources and Uranex have already acquired exploration licenses for uranium and are waiting on the law to come into play before they start mine development.

The development of uranium projects is expected to start by mid-2011, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal.

The first uranium mines will be opened near the Mkuju River in the Ruvuma Region and at Manyoni and Bahi Districts in the central region.

Government data shows that at least 53.9 million pounds of uranium oxide has been confirmed at two sites in the central and southern regions of the country.

Last December Tanzania Energy and Minerals Minister William Ngeleja said that geologists had identified uranium at 20 sites in the country.

Tanzania said it wants to exploit uranium to produce nuclear power for domestic and regional use.