The country’s mineral exports are expected to fetch approximately $60 million in revenue this year compared to $54.6 million earned last year on account of increased prices on international market, a senior official has 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.
“Prices have been improving; even with relatively less volume- we may not get a drop in the dollars that we get,” Dr. Michael Biryabarema, Director General Rwanda Geology and Mines Authority(RGMA) told Business Times yesterday in an interview.
During the first half of this year, the mining sector grew by 37percent compared to only 2.9 percent recorded last year during the same period.
While the value has seen a modest increase , Biryabarema said the sector has seen a drop in volumes mainly due to the decline in demand and international prices experienced last year.
This led to a slow down local production.
Volumes of minerals fell by 16.5percent on average in the first 10 months of this year.
“Last year we had very bad prices and the demand was low; this gives a repo effect on production. Even when the prices begin to improve the reaction is not immediate: it takes sometime to get to 2008 levels,” he said.
In 2008, the sector grew by 35.4 percent before dropping to 13.8 percent last year.
However, with relatively good prices experienced this year, Biryabarema said production is expected to increase going into next year.
“If they continue to improve definitely next year we will have better production and definitely better returns in terms of dollars,”
According to the Official, the recently (July) enacted American legislation on “Conflict Minerals” poses big challenges for the sector.
The legislation defines conflict minerals as coltan, cassiterite, wolframite, gold and their derivatives are financing conflict in DRC or “an adjourning country”.
The key minerals produced in Rwanda (cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold) all fall under the above category.
“It does affect (Rwanda) because it says within 9 months from July of this year companies buying metals from Rwanda or countries surrounding Congo should be able to verify up to the mine level ; the challenge is that most of our producers are not yet to that level,” he explained.
While government had already put in place measures to ensure that all the minerals originating from the country are accounted for and mined with international good practice, Biryabarema said the timeframe given under the legislation is not sufficient.
“We had earlier started a system of certification of bringing our mining industry up to date with the modern way of production but we were still at pilot level.” he observed.
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.