Mining threatens water supply – REMA
The Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has warned of a likely water supply shortage in the arid areas of the country as a result of mining and climate change.
The areas are reported to be experiencing frequent and prolonged drought. Environmental experts now warn that supply chain disruptions caused by natural disasters and logistical impediments as a result of floods are likely to be compounded by climate change and mining.
This was revealed in the Atlas of Rwanda’s Changing Environment report released by REMA this month. The report indicates that water scarcity will worsen as mining companies still use undeveloped technologies to prospect, extract and process ore, thereby interfering with the quality of water.
“The artisanal method of mining in Rwanda is associated with a number of adverse environment ramifications. Owing to the low level of technologies for applications and technical expertise, the country’s miners predominately use rudimentary technologies for prospecting as well as extracting ore,” the report reads.
The report points out that as a consequence, open cast cassiterite mining activities on steep slopes allow ore residue to flow uncontrolled downhill into the streams and rivers. Mine tailings contaminate the surface and underground making it difficult for local communities to access clean and unpolluted drinking water. Some of the surface water in the mining regions of the country reportedly contain toxic chemicals like lead and arsenic.
Some of the affected regions include Gakenke District with Nyabarongo River already affected by cassiterite residues flowing from open cast artisanal mining. The other is Ngororero District in the Gatumba area.
The report further warns that since mining is land and water intensive, the scarcity of the two is likely to be intensified by climate change. The other vulnerabilities relate to energy cost and security.
“The energy security dynamics will be especially vital if Rwanda continues to rely on climate-dependent hydro power. Concerns about rising energy security will persist if fossils fuelled thermal power continues to dominate Rwanda’s source,” the report explained.
Mining companies have thus been advised to expand the coping range of their heavy duty equipment so as to enhance resilience to climate related floods and drought risks.
When contacted by The New Times for a comment, the president of the mining association of Rwanda, Jean-Malic Kalima, said the association has held discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources and agreed on measures to stop water contamination.
Kalima said the association is currently training miners on how to employ the artisanal mining method, adding that they have also adopted the conventional basin method.
“We have adopted the conventional basic method to treat water before it flows into any water body.” he pointed out.
He added that the association plans to initiate a treatment plant to recycle water for reuse to avoid pollution.