The Rwanda Mines, Petroleum, and Gas Board (RMB) has ordered the immediate closure of 89 illegal mines across the country. This decision follows an illegal mining saga in which a number of people lost their lives. ALSO READ: Police arrest 30 illegal miners in Gatsibo Narcisse Dushimimana, the Head of Regulation and Inspection at Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) told The New Times that Eastern Province has the most illegal mines to be closed down, with 32. Although the official did not divulge data by district, recent reports indicate that a number of mine accidents were recorded in illegal mines in this province, particularly in Rwamagana District. In 2019 alone, at least 14 people were confirmed dead at a mining site in Mwulire Sector in Rwamagana District. In 2010, 11 illegal miners died in the same district when the disused Casserite mine they were working in collapsed and buried them. In October last year, police warned over illegal mining, and several people were arrested in the district. ALSO READ: Over 10 illegal miners die in Mwurile The second province with illegal mining is Southern Province with 20 illegal mines that have to be stopped, Dushimimana said. The recent mine accident in this province killed six people in Huye District who were never rescued from the tunnels. According to the Rwanda Mines Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), Muhanga and Kamonyi are at the top for experiencing mine accidents. Dushimimana noted that the Northern Province ranks third with 18 illegal mines that need to be shut down. The recent incident is concerning an illegal mine believed to contain gold. It was closed on Monday, May 29 after a meeting that gathered residents and various officials, including Regional Reserve Force Commander in the Northern Province- Maj Gen Eric Murokore, Brigadier General Pascal Muhizi as well as Northern Region Police Commander (RPC) - Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Francis Muheto. Rulindo District in this province has been the most affected district by mine accidents in recent years. According to Dushimimana, Western Province comes fourth with a large number of illegal mines (17) to be shut down. Ngororero and Rutsiro districts recorded the highest number of mine accidents in 2018 and 2019. ALSO READ: Govt warns illegal miners as five die in mining accident in Ngororero Only two illegal mines have been identified to be closed in the City of Kigali, he added. “These illegal mines have to be closed down because not all sites discovered with minerals have to be exploited immediately. The country has a sustainable plan to exploit such natural resources without harming the environment,” Dushimimana noted. He said the mining board has unearthed unlicensed or illegal mining activities and it is engaging local government and security organs to intervene in closing those sites. Call to unlock finance to modernise mining Dushimimana urged financial institutions to unlock finance for mining companies to be able to afford modern equipment and a skilled workforce. “Having modern equipment and complying with guidelines could help reduce mine accidents,” he said. Mine accidents have killed at least 429 people while 272 were injured over the past five years. ALSO READ: 14 miners die in Rwamagana quarry He urged mining companies to also merge activities to increase investment as a way of affording modern equipment, safety, and health requirements. “Locally there is no market that sells such modern mining equipment. They are imported and expensive. Therefore, they need access to enough finance,” he said. In 2018, only 23 per cent of mining firms were complying with mining standards, and 40 per cent in 2019. At least 50 per cent of minerals disappear due to artisanal mining and modern techniques. The government targets $1.5 billion in annual revenues from mineral exports by 2024 as the sector creates more jobs. In 2019 before the Covid-19 outbreak, the mining sector employed about 71,205 workers, an increase from 47,727 workers in 2017, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). As the government helps the sector recover from Covid-19 effects, the number of jobs in the mining and extraction sector has increased to over 120,000.