Rwandans with mineral fields will now be allowed to negotiate mining deals with companies once a new Bill presented to Parliament is approved.
The Bill on mines and quarries exploitation was recently presented by the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi.
The government argues that revising the 2008 law is in line with a grand plan to optimise production, ensure maximum return to government, and ensure safety and security of labour.
The Bill also aims to promote sustainable mining and encourage wider participation in the sector.
“The mining sector is weighed down by problems, including soil erosion and land degradation, illegal mining, and other environmental hazards. An example is the menace on River Sebeya which we are working to rectify as we want to have clean water in that river in two years,” Kamanzi said.
“So are issues to do with mines that crumble at night and kill miners. These are lives of Rwandans that we must protect,” he said, adding that local miners must also be helped earn better and “not be overexploited.”
Lawmakers suggested areas of improvement, insisting on miners’ welfare, safety and general economic development.
MP Ezechias Rwabuhihi said he supports the new draft legislation bearing in mind that the Executive recently presented to Parliament positive outlook for the mining sector due to the many potential mineral deposits.
Rwabuhihi, however, suggested that government should be involved in regulation since the Bill allows individual land owners where minerals are discovered to negotiate with exploiters.
Offer first chance to Rwandans
The Bill proposes to give priority to Rwandan contractors for services, provided that the rates, quality and time schedule for delivery are competitive.
“This is to ensure participation of Rwandans in their own natural resources exploitation and finding in it employment opportunities,” the minister said.
The holder of a mineral licence and its sub-contractors shall comply with the requirements of labour laws, according to the Bill.
The licences that may be granted under the new law are an exploration licence, small and scale mining licences, and an artisanal mining licence.
Kamanzi said it is proposed that the two-year mineral prospecting licence be abolished because it creates “an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.”
Acquisition of mineral licences, the Bill says, can be done either by applying to the minister in charge, or by public tender.
While the current law defines only two mining licences–small and large mines–the Bill introduces in an artisanal mining licence “to offer opportunities to investors with low capital.”
The area granted in a mineral licence shall consist of contiguous blocks whose shape, orientation and dimension will be prescribed by a Ministerial Order, but not exceeding 400 hectares for an exploration licence, 100 hectares for a small-scale mining licence, 400 hectares for a large-scale mining licence, and 49 hectares for an artisanal mining licence.
A large licence of extendable 30 years will be valid in a period between 15 and 25 years, renewable depending on available resources and action plan.
Miners’ take on the Bill
The Rwanda Mining Association (RMA) says, generally, the Bill is good and forward-looking in terms of supporting the sector as most of the concerns previously raised by RMA are taken care of in the draft law.
In an e-mail to this paper, RMA vice chairperson Jeannette Mutesi, said some of the areas that would require more adjustments are related to licence acquisition and compensation.
“Paragraph 2 of this article contains a long list of requirements. This is too much for those engaged in mining activities, especially the small-scale miners,” says Mutesi. “Some requirements are not easy to fulfill before the beginning of the mining activities.”
RMA cited description of mineral deposits in an area, including details of all known minerals proved, estimated or inferred, ore reserves and mining conditions as well as the proposed marketing arrangements as stated in the Bill.
“Some of these details can be obtained when one has already started the mining activities yet they will be preconditions for one to get a licence,” she said.
The association says article 12 also provides a list of requirements for one to fulfill in order to renew a mining licence, yet a company renewing a licence is not a new entrant in the sector, as it is already in contact with the relevant authorities and provides periodic reports.
“The many requirements are a duplication of needed information and yet costly to prepare and submit on the side of the investor or person seeking the licence renewal,” Mutesi said.
In addition, RMA says the Bill mentions requirements for one to apply for a licence, but there is no mention of the proposed time frame for the given licence.