Govt to consolidate small mining operators

Francis Gatare, the CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (R) talks to Coletha Ruhamya, Director General of REMA recently. / Courtesy

Francis Gatare, the CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) has revealed a plan to combine small mining operators into effective and financially capable groups so as to raise capital to afford infrastructure, increase productivity and comply with environment management.

Statistics show that there are over 3,000 mining sites across the country but 50 per cent of expected mineral produce remain in the soil due to lack of modern mining and minerals sluicing techniques.

The official said that the small mining operators also fail to comply with environment management.

“We are working on consolidation of the small mining operators so that we can have larger operations capable of raising capital that is required to improve their performance,” he said.

The move he said is based on the fact that small artisanal miners are facing various challenges.

“These include raising capital that is required for the infrastructure to improve their performance and improving their environmental management strategies,” he said.

Rwanda exported minerals worth $350 million last year.

The country’s export earnings from minerals are projected to reach $800 million in 2019/2020.

The Government targets $1.5 billion in annual revenues from mineral exports by 2024.

Gatare said that mining activities have also to be environmental friendly.

“We want to make sure that mining in Rwanda doesn’t have a severe effect on the environment. We are mindful of what it means for the sustainable development of our country,” he said.

He was speaking to different environmental activists this week.

“Several small artisanal miners who have failed to demonstrate willingness or ability to comply have really been stopped.
We are reducing the number of operating licenses to make sure there is a manageable number especially those who demonstrate willingness and commitment to change as their performance has been low. So we are significantly reducing the number of operating licenses to make sure that they raise ability and commitment,” he said. 

Environment restoration plan

In order to ensure that environment degraded by mining operators is restored, Gatare said a new initiative dubbed “Bond Calculator” will ensure a rehabilitation cost is planned along every mining project.

The bond calculator is developed to provide a consistent methodology for estimating rehabilitation costs for extractive, exploration and mining operations.

The calculator is also useful in the initial planning of an operation for predicting quarry or mine closure costs well in advance and for designing the staging of an operation to minimize the area disturbed and to maximize progressive rehabilitation.

The regulatory basis is that mine or quarry operators are required to submit a guarantee of their rehabilitation liabilities prior to the commencement of site works.  

“Every mining project interferes with environment but has to get commitment to restore the environment to the state that is similar to what it was before and the state that does not have adverse effects on the environment and the communities around,” he said.
“The fact we had in the past is that there was no formula of ensuring that the bond describes the true cost of restoring environment,” he said.

He noted that they will work with a consultant to develop a bond calculator that can be used by RDB when they are issuing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates so that environment management plan reflects the true cost of restoration.
“We have to sensitize experts who develop Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to make sure that they use this bond calculator. This is not a very popular initiative among the business operators because it raises the upfront cost required before the project can begin,” he said.

And he said that it requires working with Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA).

Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment said that as Rwanda’s economy grows quickly there is need to mainstream environment and climate change into decision making and the national development agenda.    

“We have seen, however, that many sectors are still operating with a business as usual approach. More needs to be done to ensure the environment and climate change are considered in the policies, strategies, projects and programmes being developed in all sectors of the economy,” she said.

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