Rwanda will soon send back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 70 tonnes (70,000Kgs) of untagged minerals that were smuggled into the country, The New Times has learnt.
Dr Michael Biryabarema, the Director General for Mines and Geology in the Ministry of Natural Resources, confirmed the development, but said the handover date was yet to be determined by the relevant ministers from both countries.
The minerals were seized by Revenue Protection Department’s anti-smuggling unit as they were sneaked into the country, from DRC, through the western corridors of Rusizi and Rubavu, over the last five months, Biryabarema said.
They include cassitarite and wolframite, tungsten and tantalum, he added.
“We no longer export untagged minerals. So, any minerals that come into Rwanda without a tag are impounded and taken back to the country of origin,” Biryabarema said.
In January, this year, Rwanda set up a mineral tagging and sealing scheme that is internationally recognised as the iTSCi project, which aims at curbing illegal trading of minerals, particularly from conflict areas in the DRC.
DRC is singled out as a conflict zone.
Between March and September this year, 91,000 Kgs of smuggled minerals have been impounded. 55,000kgs in Rubavu district, 27,000 in Rusizi and 9,000 in Kigali.
The 70,000kgs to be sent back to DRC are part of 91,000 kgs impounded. The ministry of Mines is in the process of identifying the origin of the remaining minerals.
The US passed a law putting an end to the exportation of untagged minerals in July 2010, with the aim of discouraging trading in ‘blood minerals’, a requirement that came into force in April, 2011.
Rwanda has the capacity to tag up to 98 percent of its minerals.
The Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, stressed that Rwanda’s borders are vigilantly guarded against the entry of untagged minerals.
“We have undertaken the necessary measures to ensure that trading of minerals from Rwanda is done transparently,” Kamazi said.
He said the DRC government sent a technical team to Rwanda to negotiate the modalities and common mechanisms on how to consolidate efforts to curb illegal mineral trade.
The Director of the Revenue Protection Department, Robert Mugabe, told The New Times that whenever minerals are impounded by the anti-smuggling unit, they are immediately handed over to the Mines and Geology Department for repatriation to DRC.
“We have been fighting this vice for a very long time and since the introduction of the tagging scheme, we collaborate with concerned agencies to upgrade anti-smuggling efforts in the country and region,” Mugabe said.