Investors in the mining sector cited uncoordinated service charges and ambiguous auditing processes as their main challenges which the Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA) should address to streamline operations.
They aired their concerns, yesterday, during an event to mark Mines Day. The ceremony attracted over 300 stakeholders from the mineral sector and representatives from the government.
“We recommend some sort of proportional formula on the fees that we are charged, putting into context the fluctuation of mineral prices on the international market and the high costs of the tagging scheme that we go through,” said Mahmond Salem, the Managing Director of Pyramides Ltd, a mining firm operating in Muhanga District, Southern Province.
Salem doubles as the Vice-Chairman of Rwanda Mining Investment Forum, an umbrella association of investors in the sector.
“The auditing firms that deal with us must first be introduced by the minerals and geology department from the ministry because we do not know who some of them represent. As the head of the mining family, transparency is paramount to the ministry and we are willing to cooperate and improve this area,” Salem added.
Michael Biryabarema, the Director General of Mines and Geology in MINIRENA, said that the mining sector is becoming crucial to the overall national development, noting that such discussions should be held to streamline the sector.
He, however, urged mining companies to adhere to local and international standards in ensuring the safety of the employees as well as protection of the environment.
“The washing of mineral ores in rivers and streams, a very common practice, should immediately stop because it contaminates water bodies. All companies must set up proper washing stations,” Biryabarema urged.
“Strong emphasis must also be placed on the safety and security of the miners while they are at work and important as well, companies must set up mechanisms for fair pay to their workers,” he added.
The Director General of Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, Emmanuel Nkurunziza emphasized that government had put in place measures to curb illegal mining and ensure prosecution of culprits.
He further urged those in the mining sector to resist any forms of corruption.
A survey by PACT, an international NGO, indicates that Rwanda hosts 24,287 artisanal miners with a total of 120,000 citizens directly depending on mining activities.
Export earnings from minerals in the first three quarters of 2011 rose to US$109 million surpassing last year’s total earnings of US$ 96.4 million. Projections indicate that the sector will at the end of this year fetch over US$150m.