The Mining Sector has continued to gain prominence in contributing to the foreign exchange earnings of Rwanda. The government has therefore identified it as one of the priority sectors that require intensive development through institutional, organizational and individual capacity development to enable a systematic growth of its contribution towards national development.
Mining development, however, has been hampered by some capacity and technical challenges that have called for involvement of the CESB (the then National Capacity Building Secretariat-NCBS) to build appropriate knowledge and skills for small scale miners who still dominate the sector at approximately 85 per cent.
The Government of Rwanda has set up a program to develop the mining industry with the objectives of increasing export earnings through increased production in order to generate employment opportunities and contribute to national wealth.
In order to meet these objectives, the Ministry of Natural Resources through the Strategic Capacity Building Initiative (SCBI) coordinated by CESB has initiated a program to improve mineral production through adoption of best practices in health safety and environment.
The program is meant to avoid practices that result in production losses in mining and recovery processes, lost production hours, fatal and non-fatal injuries as well as detrimental practices against the environment.
In this regard, the Ministry embarked on the process of developing minimum operational standards to be adopted by the mining companies in the production processes.
CESB supported the introduction of mining standards amongst miners who are implementing them through training that have been conducted in the whole country with the aim of strengthening the capacities of the Mine owners, Mining technicians and mining peer educators.
A total of Rwf 58 million was spent in the training of miners in 30 districts of the whole country with the purpose of improving utilization of natural resources in a manner that ensures safe mining and environmental preservation.
Mine owners, technicians and district peer educators were trained on the developed code of practice or standards designed to improve health and safety standards and to eliminate unnecessary mining and environmental practices in all large and small-scale mines.
The first phase of the training was completed in June 2016 with more than 270 operators benefiting. The training focused on the awareness and collection of inputs to reach the developed standards.
“Miners acquired various practical knowhow such as the requirements to set up an underground mining tunnel, cemented mines, basics for insurance cover, compensation in case of unfortunate incidences, setting warning signposts, among others.” As explained by Stephen M. Mugabi, the SCBI Program Manager at CESB.
Trainees also got to know how to do rehabilitation at mining sites, waste management from the mine and managing the runoff.
The training was effective as it saw adoption of different methods among the miners. In mineral processing, for instance, miners have shifted from traditional methods in ground-sloshing to shaking tables to improve mineral recovery.
Monitoring and Evaluation of implemented Standards and safety regulations
The second phase of developing capacities of the Mining Sector focused on monitoring and evaluation of the trained operators in all 4 provinces and the city of Kigali to some selected companies to monitor the progress on the implementation of the Mining Safety standards.
During the monitoring session, model mines were selected and facilitated to reach even higher levels of ability. The poor operators were identified and recommendations on how they can improve were provided.
Capacity Development and Employment Services Board-CESB together with experts in Mining from Ministry of Natural Resources inspected the extent of implementation of the best practices in safety and environment at selected sites.
The Ministry and Board also recommended the best practices and developed practical tools for use by the learners and miners in the implementation of work for each mine assessed.
The training enabled trainees to manage mining operations to higher levels of productivity through enforcement of safety and environment-friendly methods.
Improved working conditions, environment-friendly operations are some of the outputs that beneficiaries credit to the training.
Andre Musabyimana, president of a mining cooperative in Cyato sector in Nyamasheke district said the training revitalized their work.
“This training was vital because our workers have no academic qualifications and hence, we used to get technicians from other companies which were costly.
“Our workers were trained on workplace safety and environment friendly measures. With necessary equipment they have, such as boots, gloves, helmets and glasses as well as insurance, occupational safety is assured,” he said.
“For the sake of environment, we plant trees, build dams to prevent waters from silting river beds as well as fence the mine to avoid incidents. Furthermore, workers have joined savings cooperatives to improve their wellbeing,” noted Musabyimana.
Another miner, a 65-year old Antelle Nkeshiraguha, also echoed the benefits of the training. “I’ve been working in mining for many years. I made a living from this career and I managed to raise my 7 children. However, we worked amidst looming danger due to some hazardous conditions we faced. After the training, we have all occupational equipment and we feel safer than before,” he said.
“The training was crucial because our low knowledge levels limited production. We acquired a lot of knowledge we didn’t have before. We have improved sanitary and hygiene as well as other workplace facilities, we no longer work in proximity with rivers to safeguard against pollution and silting and miners are paid on time which has resulted into progressive increase in production,” appreciates Alexis Kabanguka, from Nyamasheke.