As part of its strategies to maximize mineral output and realize sectoral stability, the government through the Ministry of minerals and natural resources has embarked on strengthening the capacity of artisanal miners.
An artisanal miner is, in effect, a subsistence miner, who often undertakes the activity of mining gold seasonally. They are not officially employed by a mining company, but rather work independently, mining or panning for gold using their own resources.
According to the World Bank, at least 13 million people worldwide from over 30 developing countries engage in artisanal mining and a further 80-100 million people depend on this sector for their livelihood, according to CASM (Community and Small-Scale Mining initiative).
In an interview with the Minister of State for Mines and Natural Resources, Vincent Karega, he revealed that the artisanal miners have a lot of potential and can contribute significantly to the progress of the mining sector if given the deserved support.
“If artisanal miners are supported and organized, they can significantly impact the sectors progress, given the fact that they are already in the system” said Karega
He added that the outstanding challenge faced by these miners is lack of logistical capacity to undertake crucial mining processes like expropriation and standard exploitation which has made many get stuck with their traditional methods which are largely detrimental to the environment.
Among the strategies in the pipeline is putting artisanal miners in cooperatives and unions to form a strong base which will elevate them for larger benefits.
Dominique Bidega, the acting Director of Regulation and Supervision in the department of Geology and Minerals, said they are involved in efforts of putting artisanal miners in cooperatives and have so far formed over 35 of them.
“We are putting these miners in cooperatives which merge into unions and this is done to maximize their strength for bigger benefits” pointed out Bidega
He also added that the sector is working on the formulation of a mining federation which will be linked to COPEMER, the sole union of local miners.
“This merger is going to strengthen and prepare local miners both in terms of capacity, advocacy and professionalism to step up the practice” he added
For long the artisanal miners have been operating independently from the big mining companies due to their under-scale mode of operation and lack of operational organization but with these up-scaling strategies they will get strength of partnering and benefiting from these companies.
Artisanal and small-scale mining accounted for over half Rwanda’s domestic mineral production in 2008, artisanal mining cooperatives sell their goods to larger mining companies or traders based in Kigali.
In a related development, it has been revealed that targets from the country’s mining industry are expected to drop by either 35 percent or 40 percent due to the global financial crisis.
According to Karega, government was targeting Rwf59.6 billion but because of the economic crisis that started affecting the industry late last year, they are expecting a drop in revenues.