Rwanda seeks to achieve the target of $1.5billion of revenue from mineral exports by 2024. While more efforts are being put in boosting the sector, Doing Business spoke to Eng. Andre Mutsindashyaka, Secretary General of the Rwanda Extractive Industry Workers Union (REWU), which advocates for workers in mining about issues affecting them and how they can be addressed. The excerpts: Mining is among the sectors that employs many people in the country. As a union that advocates for mine workers’ rights, what issues do you want to be addressed with urgent action as Rwanda celebrates mining day next month? The issue of written employment contracts is still a big challenge, where 79 per cent of workers in mining do not have contracts according to our assessment. This has consequences considering that the employees can't have access to loans from the bank. Those employees are not even covered by social security due to lack of written contracts yet they are prone to numerous dangers. In addition to the issue of written contracts, how is the wage? The gap or lack of minimum wage is still a big challenge. That is why the trade union for mine workers, based on labor law, is in the process of negotiating collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on a sectoral minimum wage for the mining industry. It is very needed in this sector because of some employees who do not get remuneration when they don't find minerals under the pretext that they are paid according to how productive they are. They do not get paid yet during the process to reach minerals they suffer a lot. Those employees work for some days without payment and it affects their welfare and their families. Once there is a minimum remuneration agreed through CBA, that kind of injustice will be solved, employees will work confidently and production and profits of the companies will increase. There will be more jobs created and poverty reduction will happen. Such a positive impact will contribute to the economic growth of our country. What is the status of the skills of mine workers? In partnership with Rwanda TVET Board (RTB), we introduced Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as many miners perform their duties based on the experience and prior learning. More than 200 miners were assessed and soon will be awarded with certificates of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in the forthcoming mining week of this year. This recognition will pave the way for informal to formal employment as they have been trained to get certificates for their skills. Skills development of employees working in the mining sector is still needed in order to enhance their professional capacity. Once this is achieved, it will contribute to the increment of production and added value. Safety and health is paramount. What do you think about this in the mining sector? There is a high need of awareness and training on occupational safety and health for protecting workers employed in the mining sector. We are advocating for workers so that occupation safety and health regulations issued by the government are complied with. There are concerns over the safety of mine workers. How are you intervening? There are mine accidents and a dangerous respiratory disease in mining sites. However, no research has yet been done to know the status of this disease though being reported by all workers. We have got a partner and we are going to carry out research on mine workers' health conditions. Some workers have no protective gear yet there is special gear for mine workers. Some companies buy these protective gears but workers do not usually wear them due to negligence. Some companies do not buy them for their workers as some do not have skills and knowledge about occupational safety. We are still advocating for mine workers because those who even want to pursue companies lack justice due to lack of written contracts. There should be tightened enforcement. There is weakness in enforcement of laws and regulations. Contractors hire subcontractors who do not comply with the law. Labor inspectors should reach the field and punish mining companies. This is because few are not really punished and fined. Delay of cases taken in courts by mine workers is also an issue. We need industrial courts or chambers in courts to handle cases of workers whose labor rights are violated. We are happy that inspectors to examine the state of mining sites have been hired. Now the mining law punishes mining firms for accidents that are caused by lack of standards. However, what is needed is tightened enforcement. Insurance costs for mine workers are also expensive. So mining firms seek insurance for few workers as insurance companies take the mining sector as risky. We learnt that the insurance cost for one miner is Rwf1.5 million. We have realized that out of 500 workers, a firm can insure only 10 workers. How is the mining sector faring in employing women? The number of women employed in the mining sector is still low. That is 11,4 per cent, we are partnering with UN Women to attract more women in this sector. We are conducting awareness campaigns to attract more women and join the industry, as there are more job opportunities. Mining companies started to set up Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers at workplaces. Two pilot companies; Wolfram Mineral Processing (WMP) Gifurwe and New Bugarama Mining (NBM), had already established and operationalized ECDs. Other companies are in the way for establishing the ECDs. ECDs help in childcare, fight against malnutrition and stunting. When children are taken care of, their mothers are able to work and the income increases as production has increased. Why are you pushing for a mining fund? Mining operations need more money to invest, as mining is the second sector to boost the country’s economy. There is a need for creation of a mining fund in our country to support investors in this sector. Once investors will be supported by this fund, they will modernize industry and create more jobs which will lead to a production boost as well as to the income increment from the sector. Any parting shot? In conclusion, I thank the many efforts done by the Rwanda Mining Board in transforming the sector, and to the Ministry of Public Services and Labor (MIFOTRA) for labor law enforcement, Rwanda Mining Association and other key stakeholders on their role in improving working conditions in the mining sector. We need more efforts to improve welfare and respect the rights of mine workers and boost mineral production.