Findings of an assessment of mining activities in Muhanga and Ruhango districts released last week show that Nyabarongo River is heaped with sand mainly from the mining activities.
The sand, according to the findings, hampers the flow of waters and is affecting the Nyabarongo Hydropower dam.
The findings, presented at a meeting between the Ministry of Natural Resources and miners in Muhanga District, also shows that there are many illegal miners in the sector.
Accredited miners claim the illegal activities are fuelled by some local leaders with vested interests.
The assessment was carried out by Rwanda Natural Resources Authority in collaboration with the districts last month.
It cited filtrating soil for minerals in rivers, workers without required equipment, poor mineral filtration methods and lack of insurance for some workers as the other challenges the mining sector faces.
The assessment report also revealed that some companies operate without mining licenses, while others have more than one mining license but have no capacity to properly manage their entire mining concessions.
In addition, the report indicates that mining tunnels were in poor state, and extracted pits are not refilled or covered up.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources, warned that companies which consistently fail to abide by set mining standards would have their mining licenses revoked.
“It is not our intention to stop anyone from engaging in mining activities, but we will not accept you to continue destroying the environment,” he noted.
Biruta said there was need for best mining practices so that the mining sector benefits people.
He noted that many minerals are lost in the filtration process because the miners do not invest in modern equipment for best filtration methods.
The minister urged the miners to use advanced mining equipment for enhanced mineral production.
He reiterated that although the mining sector rakes in more revenues in the country’s coffers, it should not be to the detriment of the environment.
“What we need is that mineral extraction should be done well in compliance with the law to ensure preservation of the environment and for it to benefit the practitioners and the population in general,” he said.
Biruta said funds were available to finance best practices in mining projects to ensure environmental sustainability.
Muhanga District has the most mining licences totalling 50.
The president of the mining association in the Southern Province, Maj (rtd) Robert Rugamba, said only 27 licence holders were productive.
“Having 50 licences in Muhanga is something we should be proud of as a country. But the pride of possessing minerals should go with good mining practices,” he said.
Muhanga vice mayor for finance and economic development, François Uhagaze, said they arrest people involved in illegal mineral extraction every week.
Muhanga mayor Yvonne Mutakwasuku said the efforts to make Nyabarongo River clean required concerted efforts.
Statistics from the ministry show that the country fetched $226 million from mineral export revenues in 2013, and $216 million in 2014. The Government targets to collect $400 million from mineral exports by 2017/2018.