By Alice Kagina
Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente has emphasized that Rwanda’s mining potential is yet to be fully exploited, adding that there are preliminary studies that indicate significant mineral reserves across the country.
He was speaking during the launch of the 5th edition of Rwanda Mining Week that kicked off on December 5, bringing together different industry players, investors, and government officials to discuss progress in the sector under the theme “Towards a Modern and Sustainable Mining Sector.“
This edition will feature discussions on the modernisation of the mining sector, mineral exploration, environmental protection, and safety standards, as well as available opportunities for markets and investments, coupled with a four-day exhibition of locally sourced and made products.
Ngirente highlighted that recognizing the need to invest in exploration and production of minerals, the government is committed to work with all stakeholders to develop the mining sector to sustainably deliver good results.
“Particularly, investments are needed in mineral exploration and processing for value addition, provision, financing and transformation of our mining practices,” he noted.
Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) has a bracket that aims at increasing and translating the mining into large exports and in this regard, the share of minerals as per total exports is expected to reach 49.6 percent by 2024 from 32.9 percent in 2017.
Yamina Karitanyi, CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum, and Gas Board (RMB) said there are valuable gains made over the years with a transition from artisanal to modern mining techniques, and called on stakeholders to support the growth and professionalization of the mining sector.
“The sector presents significant opportunities for investment in exploration, exploitation, and value addition,” she highlighted.
According to data from the RMB, From January to September 2022, the sector generated $585 million in export revenue, growing from $516 million in 2021 which was a slow year due to low prices on global markets.
Once the sector performs at maximum potential, the target is to reach $1.5 billion in revenue by 2024.
Jean Malic Kalima, Chairperson of Rwanda Mining Association, said there is continued growth in the number of local miners including more women finding interest in the sector, as well as capacity building offered by the University of Rwanda in mining faculty.
However, where the government prioritized issuing licenses to foreign companies on the basis that they bring in more investments, Kalima highlighted that there is a problem of passing on licenses from one investor to another without even meeting the professional and ethical requirements.
In addition to that, Kalima requested the government to find ways of helping the sector access adequate financing to achieve the anticipated development.
Environmental considerate operations
The Premier also urged mining operators to take into account environmental restoration and social considerations while carrying out their mining activities.
“We don’t want you to acquire riches while leaving behind a degraded environment that may damage people’s homes because of erosion,” he said.
Ngirente added that miners should adopt appropriate techniques and their management of mineral resources must be done to respond to the needs of communities surrounding the mining sites.
Karitanyi pledged, on behalf of the sector, to be more responsible and more responsive to protecting the environment as the sector grows to respond to current and future global energy transition needs.
Mineral value addition
Miners have echoed concerns over the production losses during the extraction because of inefficient equipment coupled with low value given to unprocessed minerals on the international market.
Hence, Rwanda continues to promote value addition to gain more revenue from processed mineral exports, boosting a gold refinery, a tin smelter, and a coltan refinery that is in the pipeline.
The sector comprises 158 mining companies and 68 companies with industrial quarry licenses.