There is an opportunity to invest in the mining industry but also in the aspect of midstream processing and have more partnerships between Rwanda and the United Kingdom, experts have said. ALSO READ: Rwanda guarantees return on investment – Ndagijimana to UK business executives The call was made on Tuesday, January 30 during the official opening of the first-ever UK-Rwanda business forum, underway in Kigali. The forum, under the theme Succeeding in Rwanda: Unlocking Growth & Opportunities, drew nearly 1,000 delegates including 130 investors from the UK, captains of trade and industry, and government officials, as part of the efforts to boost trade and investment in both countries. Speaking at one of the major sessions at the event, Kirsty Benham, the Founder of the Critical Minerals Association in the UK, stressed the need to “make sure that mining projects adhere to standards of responsibility, environmental protection, biodiversity and hence reducing carbon emissions.” ALSO READ: 2023 recap: A look at Rwanda's mineral returns “So it’s just making sure that when we are digging these commodities out of the ground, we are not doing it at the expense of local communities who are supporting and developing these projects,” she said. According to Benham, the UK Critical Minerals Association represents 40 companies in multiple critical supply chains, from mining companies to processing, recycling, and service providers. She told The New Times that the majority of the representatives are in Kigali for the UK-Rwanda business forum, with a keen interest in investing in “the attractive and business-enabling Rwandan market.” “It is very important to add value to products. It is very important for Rwanda as well to make sure that you have the investment to be able to develop those projects. And I think it is just about making sure that we can develop all the sort of alternative, responsible, critical, and non-supply chains that the world needs to meet net-zero ambitions.” Reacting to the current global perspective of the mining industry, Benham said that new players are joining countries like the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada to recognise that critical supply chains are vulnerable to disruption. “They need investment, they need new companies to come on board, and I think Rwanda like other nations has a lot of resources and a lot of potential.” For instance, she said, we have resources that both the UK and Rwanda have in huge deposits including tin, tungsten, and lithium. “If there’s, for example, tin smelting in Rwanda, lithium processing potential in Rwanda, could there be a linkage between Rwanda and UK mining companies there? Likewise, if there’s tin, or tungsten mining exploration and mine development happening in the UK, could there be a join-up there, where the midstream of tungsten is developed in the UK, and we work with Rwanda? So, I think there could be some interesting partnerships because the midstream is very capital intensive.” Rwanda positioning as an ESG leader For Trevor Faber, Chief Operating Officer at LuNa Smelter, one of the main players in the local market, Rwanda needs more firms to invest in “proper environmental and safety management systems” to, among other things, cut on the losses made and at the same time, spur the industry. “Looking to attract a lot of international investors? No international investor is going to invest in a mining company if you haven’t got your ESG sorted out to international standard. So, we are investing a lot of time in implementing proper environmental management systems, and safety management systems to the international standards.” At LuNa Smelter, Fabor said, 80 per cent of the firm’s workforce used to be artisanal miners. “And we have converted them, we have upskilled them, and they now work for us as subcontractors. At the end of 2023, our last time injury frequency rate was 0.5 which is in line with world-class minds anywhere in the world.” “And that just shows you what is possible with the people that we have got in this country. So never compromise on ESG. That’s what we put first. And when you have a safe working environment the production comes naturally.” “Doors open” Speaking at the panel, Ivan Twagirishema, the Deputy Chief Operating Officer at Rwanda Mining Board (RMB), said Rwanda’s mining industry continues to attract key investors, a move that accelerates the development of critical minerals and positions the country on the global “charts”. “On the full supply chain from mining, trading, value addition, and export of the finished products, as we saw, I encourage new investors to come into the mining sector because we are doing exploration. We have basic information, exploration data, for any company looking to get a concession to mine.” “So, minerals exist in Rwanda. This is not a story,” he added. The mining industry is among the major contributors to Rwanda’s economy. According to official data, mineral export earnings from January to September 2023 totalled $851.6 million (approx. Rwf1.6 trillion), up from $584.8 million (approx. Rwf731.24 billion) in the same period of 2022, representing a growth of 45.6 per cent. ALSO READ: Rwanda poised to meet $1.5bn mineral export target The government targets $1.5 billion (approx. Rwf1.8 trillion) in annual mineral export revenues by 2024.