Francis Gatare, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board has said more investment in skills and modern mining techniques is needed to reduce the loss of 50 per cent of minerals caused by poor mining techniques.
He was speaking during a visit to cooperatives that deal in mining in Gakenke district in the Northern Province.
“There are over 3,000 mining sites across the country but still 50 per cent of expected mineral produce remain in the soil due to lack of modern mining and minerals sluicing techniques,” he said.
He said if they use the techniques to extract all minerals from the debris and running water used during minerals rinsing, the company’s produce could increase while also increasing minerals exports considering that 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
“They still need to invest in buying modern mineral sluicing and separation machines. Mining companies or cooperative should put their efforts together or merge so as to afford the cost of modern mining techniques and increase produce so that we meet our exports targets,” he said.
He urged miners to comply with regulations related to mining safety and put in practice skills to avert accidents.
“Those who will be found without complying with safety standards must be punished. Last year mining accidents claimed lives of about 100 people while 50 people have been killed in only the first three months of this year. We have realized that most miners die in unlicensed mining sites due to indifference and lack of mining safety standards,” he said.
He added that there is a project aiming at sustainable mining development whereby mining practitioners will be acquiring skills and access to modern mining technologies.
“We have to group them together to facilitate them, give them advice, facilitate availability of modern mining equipment and access to loans,” he noted.
Sylidio Dusabamahoro, the Executive Secretary of COMIKAGI, a company that extracts minerals in Gakenke District said that losing a big percentage of minerals during rinsing stage is due to using manual techniques.
“We use our hands with water to rinse and separate minerals from sand and soil which triggers 50 per cent of minerals to remain in debris or washed away by running water. We are looking to buy modern machines to do that but electricity supply is still a challenge,” he said.
He said the cooperative extracts between 8 and 12 tonnes of coltan and cassiterite minerals which could double if modern techniques are used.
Currently, he said a Kilogramme of Coltan is Rwf12,000 while peak season, it gors for Rwf15,000.
One Kg of cassiterite is Rwf5,000 but can sometimes increase to Rwf6,000.
The cooperative has 39 members that carry out mining activities on 300 hectares.
“We need technology, research and drilling techniques to explore sources of minerals instead of divining,” he said.
According to Aimé François Niyonsenga , the Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Development in Gakenke district, the mining sector employs over 3,500 people in the district from 23 companies and cooperatives.
However, workers decry lack of work risk insurance while others do not have employment contracts.
Figures show that only 16 per cent of mining workers have employment contracts.
Officials from Rwanda Mining Board said they are working with the ministry of labour and labour unions involved in the mining sector to solve the issue.
The new mining law, Law N° 58/2018 of 13/08/2018, seeks to promote professionalism and growth of the mining sector while giving a new lease of life to the mine workers whose safety at work is often at risk.