Following complaints from players in the mining sector, Cabinet last week, approved 29 mineral and quarry licences under the new ministerial guidelines.
According to Fabrice Kayihura, the deputy chief executive of Mineral Supply Africa (MSA), a local mineral firm, ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’ delayed the issuance of mining and mineral sample exportation licences, thus affecting the sector.
Kayihura told this paper in an interview that the process through which mining licences have been issued in the past partly caused negative outcomes such as land degradation.
“Land degradation has always been the main problem in the mining sector because unqualified miners in the past had been granted licences. They, in turn, had tarnished the name of entire mining fraternity.
“Hopefully, the new guidelines will clearly stipulate what is needed for one to apply for the mining license. The Government needed to be more mindful of who gets a mining license. Only through clear regulations will we have a successful mining sector,” said Kayihura.
The 29 licences approved are part of the l 87 applications for mineral and quarry licenses that had been received between June and July this year. The 29 are the first mining licences to be issued since the new mining law was gazetted in June 2014.
The State Minister in charge of Mining, Evode Imena, said only a few mining licence applications were approved because the majority did not live up to the new ministerial order requirements.
“Since June, we have started following a new application system and assessment of mining files; the (new) ministerial order underlines all the possible procedures one needs to undergo before receiving a mining license.
“After reviewing the applications, only 29 made it in accordance with the new ministerial order requirements,” said Imena.
He noted that the ministry has developed an online mining cadaster to provide applicants with information on Rwanda’s mining system.
A cadaster is a comprehensive register of the real estate or real property’s metes-and-bounds of a country.
“This makes the whole application process easier and faster for applicants. We are trying to reduce the period of license issuance from the current 60 days to fewer days; perhaps to even one month,” Imena noted.
Only domestic mining companies licensed
The 10 quarry licences, 17 mineral exploration licences and two small scale mining licences that were approved by Cabinet were all for local businesses.
“These companies have been in both the quarrying and mining business for some time and are now seeking to expand their businesses,” said Evode.
Mineral exploration licences issued have a four-year tenure, small-scale mining for five years, and quarry licences are for between five to 15 years.
The implementation of the licences comes into force immediately, according to the minister.
The expected financial outcomes from the new contracts cannot be estimated currently because the majority of the mining licences are at an exploration level, according to Imena.
Mining revenues fluctuate
For the first half of 2015, Rwanda exported 4,500 tonnes of tin, tantalum and tungsten that generated $8.2 million.
However, this was a fall from last year’s figures.
“We almost experienced an 80 per cent decline in earnings due to demand fluctuations on the international market. China, Europe and USA are no longer consuming as usual, especially due to a decline in fuel prices, hence decreasing the demand for tungsten. The decline in demand has also affected royalties and everything else becomes a victim of the circumstance,” said Imena.
34 quarries spared for public interests
Under the new Ministerial Instructions on State quarries, the Government has designated 34 specific quarries that will serve the public interest and be used in infrastructure development.
“Frankly speaking we are not short of quarry materials in Rwanda, but we don’t want to be complacent. Under the Ministerial Instructions on State Quarries, the Government wants some quarries spared, specifically for public interest projects like airport construction and roads, even for generations to come.
State quarries have been in existence, but with no legal instrument regulating the exercise, according to the minister.
Exportation of mineral samples regulated
The Cabinet meeting also approved the Ministerial Instructions determining types, size limits and modalities for exporting mineral ore samples.
“We wanted to establish which type and limit of sample that can be exported. Once it is exported, we give the business person up to six days to bring back the results to the mining department,” he added.
The minimum mineral sample for exportation stands is 2gm of the high value gem and the maximum of 100gm, especially for clay sample, according to Minister Imena.
The exportation of mineral samples had been going on, but did not have a “proper” legal framework, hence a call for Ministerial Instructions, he said.