Mining sector will recover from Covid-19 impact soon – Gatare

Francis Gatare, the Chief Executive of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) says there is hope that the country’s mining sector will soon recover from adverse effects brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rwanda’s mining sector, just like many other sectors worldwide, has been negatively affected by the pandemic, mostly due to the total lockdown issued by the government in mid-March, halting all operations.

 

Additionally, the sector has been hit hard by drop of international prices of minerals due to less purchasing power as a result of the pandemic.

 

Restrictions by different countries on air travels also made it almost impossible to supply minerals.

 

In Rwanda, cassiterite (tin), wolfram (tungsten), and coltan (tantalum) (3Ts), of which the country is ranked among the top producers worldwide have been hit most.

Statistically, the country’s revenue exports of 3Ts decreased by 30.9 per cent due to the drop in international commodity prices in January and February 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

However, according to Gatare, the early resumption of mining activities stirred-up hope that the sector will recover soon.

“So far, operations in the mining sector is at 80 per cent. In the long-term, we think that Rwanda will continue to be a major player in the mineral supply business because of the early resumption and operations currently being done by local mining companies,” he said.

He added: “Overall, we are optimistic about the recovery, the promising trajectory of where we are heading, and we will soon begin operating at 100 percent and then start counting the positive growth in the sector.”

Mining activities resumed at the beginning of May, but not all mining companies immediately became operational, even those who did, they began on a small scale compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mining is among priority sectors that the government seeks to revive under its Economic Recovery Plan, which runs from May, 2020 to December 2021.

Under the Plan, the government plans to regorganise small-scale mining operators, consolidating many of them into collective investment groups.

Mining companies seeing positive trend

Robert Nowak, the Managing Director of LuNa Smelter, the sole producer and exporter of tin in both Eastern and Central Africa, noted that the company is seeing a positive trend after resuming operations recently.

“For the past few months we have been out of production but we used that time to carry out extensive maintenance works and critical adjustment to ensure good quality,” he explained.

“Good enough, after resuming operations, we are seeing a positive trend in terms of international prices and demand, and we are optimistic that where we are heading is better,” he added.

Rwanda targets to become a mineral hub focusing on processing and trading as evidenced by establishment of a gold refinery and tins melting. It is expected that this will add value to the mineral before export and will create more jobs.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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