Rwanda moves against ‘un­safe’ min­ing

Ar­ti­sanal min­ers say they are be­ing un­fairly squeezed out

The East African - - FRONT PAGE -

Rwan­dan min­ers have protested a new law that bans ar­ti­sanal min­ing, say­ing it could frus­trate in­vest­ment and push out most of them.

The new law re­pealed all pro­vi­sions for ar­ti­sanal min­ing, and now the cheap­est con­tract will cost about Rwf700 mil­lion ($8 mil­lion) — which is ten times more, thereby favour­ing big in­vestors. Pre­vi­ously, ar­ti­sanal min­ers were re­quired to com­mit Rwf70 mil­lion ($80,000) for a min­ing field li­cence of 49 hectares within five years.

“This new law means that ar­ti­sanal min­ing is banned in Rwanda. It does not con­sider the fact that the sec­tor em­ploys thou­sands of Rwan­dans who have re­lied on it for their liveli­hoods for many decades,” said the ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary of Rwanda Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, Frank Butera.

The min­ing law was gazetted last month, but min­ers say that they were not con­sulted be­fore the changes were adopted.

“We shared our con­cerns be­fore par­lia­ment passed the law, but it was gazetted re­gard­less of our con­cerns,” said Mr Butera. “In­stead, we re­ceived a re­sponse from the min­ing board ex­plain­ing why they did not con­sider what we pointed out.”

Ar­ti­sanal li­cences make up half of the 523 min­ing con­tracts cur­rently in ef­fect, data from the Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion shows.

The Rwanda Mines Petroleum and Gas Board de­fended its po­si­tion, say­ing that it in­tends to at­tract “se­ri­ous” in­vestors who can af­ford mod­ern prac­tices that are not harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment and the min­ers.

Nar­cisse Dushim­i­mana, the le­gal af­fairs spe­cial­ist at the min­ing board, said that the new law seeks to en­cour­age play­ers who re­lied on rudi­men­tary min­ing meth­ods to up­grade to skilled prac­tices.

“Ar­ti­sanal min­ing is con­ducted un­pro­fes­sion­ally, de­stroy­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and putting min­ers at risk. We want to help them up­grade to at least smallscale min­ing where pro­fes­sion­al­ism is needed,” said Mr Dushim­i­mana.

The new law also in­tro­duced im­pris­on­ment terms and fines of up to Rwf30 mil­lion stick to pro­fes­sional prac­tices.”

Min­er­als are be­com­ing Rwanda’s most im­por­tant source of for­eign rev­enue, ahead of cof­fee and tea. The sec­tor is how­ever dogged by price fluc­tu­a­tion, al­though it man­aged to ex­ceed its tar­get by 55 per cent last year, gen­er­at­ing $373 mil­lion in rev­enue from its prin­ci­ple min­er­als — cas­si­terite, coltan and wol­fram.

Rwanda fol­lows in the foot­steps of Tan­za­nia, which last year amended its min­ing laws, giv­ing the govern­ment more con­trol over the sec­tor and more rev­enues. In June, Tan­za­nia an­nounced that it had re­alised a 1.3 per cent GDP growth from min­ing, at­tribut­ing it to strin­gent new laws and reg­u­la­tions.

Min­ing con­trib­uted around 4.8 per cent to the GDP, up from an av­er­age 3.5 per cent re­alised over the years, said Min­er­als Min­is­ter An­gel­lah Kairuki.

“We aim for a larger piece of the pie; at least 10 per cent of the min­ing sec­tor’s con­tri­bu­tion to Tan­za­nia’s GDP by 2025,” said Ms Kairuki.

Pic­ture: File

Work­ers wash min­er­als at the Ru­tongo mines in Rwanda’s Rulindo district. A new law bans ar­ti­sanal min­ing in the coun­try.

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