Rwandan mining companies that comply with internationally accepted standards are to be graded and issued with a certificate of compliance by the end of this year in an effort to improve the performance of the sector.
This follows the launch of a pilot project on mineral certification by the Rwanda Geology and Mines Authority (OGMIR) with the support of the Germany Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources(BGR) that began in August last year.
Mining is one of the top sources of government revenue.
According to the Director of OGMIR, Michael Biryabarema, the pilot process was completed in February this year with a set of standard guidelines on good practice and supply chains being developed and volunteering companies implementing the guidelines.
“The Mineral sector in Rwanda is advanced in the process of certifying mineral supply chains and upgrading mineral extraction to good practice standards universally accepted,” Biryabarema said in a statement.
In a parallel phone interview the Director also observed that certification will be critical for mining companies in order to comply with standards set under a recent American congress legislation on “conflict minerals” signed into law last month.
The legislation defines conflict minerals as coltan, cassiterite, wolframite, gold and their derivatives are financing conflict in DRC or “an adjourning country”.
“This is very crucial because the key minerals produced in Rwanda (cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold) all fall under the above category.”
However, Biryabarema pointed out that government already put in place measures even before the legislation to ensure that all the minerals originating from the country are accounted for and mined with international good practice.
By October 2010, he said, the four volunteering companies will be audited by an (international) external auditor based on international best practices.
“A grade will be accorded to these companies and they will be issued with a certificate of compliance if they perform well,” he said.
The legislation requires that consumers and manufacturers including companies like IBM, Intel, Motorola , Apple ,HP and others to determine the mine and location of origin in an effort to ensure that minerals are conflict free.
“This puts another requirement-stakeholders now have a new standard of making sure that they confirm the origin of the minerals,” Biryabarema explained.
However, he pointed out that despite the positive spirit of the legislation, the time of compliance given to consumers of these minerals to certify their sources of material is too short.
The legislation requires that within a period of nine months consumers of “conflict minerals” to begin to disclose annually whether the minerals did originate from DRC or “an adjourning country.”
Biryabarema argued that enough time is required for companies to put the mineral tracing processes in place since the legislation implies that even minerals produced in countries neighboring DRC have to be certified.
“This calls for the mineral sector in Rwanda to strengthen its capacity in documentation and be in position to satisfy the consumer community. The timing for implementation should be clearly studied to avoid hurting the industry that has no connection to the conflict source whatsoever,” he said.
First quarter statistics from the Central Bank indicate that the mining sector grew by 23.4 percent this year with a consolidate turnover of Rwf9.29 billions from Rwf7.53 billions in the first quarter of 2009 as a result of increase in international prices of minerals mostly tin.