The ministry of Education has pledged to make significant contribution toward mineral sector development by introducing crystallography, a type of science considered as a key tool for mineral detection.
Crystallography is derived from the Greek word ‘crystallon’ (which translates to cold or frozen drop) with its meaning extending to all solids with transparency.
Speaking yesterday as Rwanda marked the World Science Day, Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, the director-general of science, technology and research at the ministry, said a school of mining and geology will be opened at the University of Rwanda next academic year to help churn out locally-trained professionals.
“We want to develop capacity of local professionals so that in 10 years from now, we should have a robust sector that is manned by Rwandans. Students should start early in high school by taking on combinations that will allow them to study mining and geology,” she said.
Dr Digne Rwabuhungu, who will head the envisaged school when it starts in September under the College of Science and Technology, said crystallography is not available in Rwandan mining companies.
“By using this standard, we will be mining high quality materials for the market as recommended worldwide,” he said.
Rwabuhungu added that crystallography is also used in other domains such as computer memory card designing, preparation of medicine by detecting causes of illness, determining proteins and nucleic acids such as DNA, flat television screen designing, among others.
“We have just designed curriculum (of the school) and are waiting for approval. The first intake is set for September. We have some few local teachers and will also bring in expatriates to help in the improvement and delivery of internationally competitive skills,” he said.
In a public lecture during the event, Dr Michael Biryabarema, director-general of mines and geology, said the key minerals mined and traded are cassiterite, wolfram, coltan, Colombo, tantalite, and gold while others are being explored.
He said the sector is facing challenges of skills gap with a notable shortage of mining engineers, geologists, mineral economists, mining agreement lawyers, high level technicians and experienced miners to optimise the industry.
The sector is still dominated by small scale producers with low technical, managerial, and financial support, limited industrial processors to transform raw materials into final products, limited access to finances for domestic mining companies as well as insufficient geological data to attract more foreign investors, he noted.
However, Biryabarema said the target is for the country to earn at least $400 million from mineral exports as well as employ 60,000 people by 2017.
Last year, the sector fetched $191 million in revenue to the economy, which was slightly lower than the $226 million it contributed to the economy in the previous a year, a decline that was attributed to the general decrease in the mineral prices on the international market as well as issues concerning marking of minerals from the region.
Currently, the sector employs 34,000 people, excluding those in quarries and there are about 600 mining sites in the country owned by over 250 companies.