The Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), a Rwandan body mandated with fast-tracking the realisation of the national vision for mining, petroleum and gas in the country, has unveiled new strategies in the mining sector to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rwanda, one of the biggest producers of tantalum, tin and tungsten, is aiming to become a mineral hub focusing on processing and trading.
In line with this goal, the country established its first gold refinery last year, as well as a tin smelter and will soon establish its first tantalum smelter.
The gold refinery has the capacity to process gold from around the continent, boosting efforts to ensure that Africa adds value to its minerals before exporting them.
A set of strategies unveiled on June 9 will impact exports and economic growth and is intended to help companies to resume full operations, allowing the sector to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We want to facilitate companies in mining and quarrying to resume 100% operations in the next two years by professionalising the sector and mobilising new investments,” RMB CEO Francis Gatare comments.
In this regard, the medium-term strategy will focus on boosting production, raising productivity through scaled-up investments, becoming a regional mineral hub for processing and trading and focusing on local manufacturing of mining equipment and explosives.
RMB intends to achieve this through helping mining companies quickly resume 100% of operations with enhanced health and safety measures for employees; expediting licensing of new applications; and reorganising small-scale mining operators, consolidating many of them into collective investment groups and licensing their new collective companies.
These will be supported with international investment mobilisation.
Additionally, RMB plans to formalise regional trade in minerals to support local smelters, refineries and all value addition and export business, which it says will also assist through job creation and raising export revenues.
Further, in a bid to professionalise small-scale mining, RMB is facilitating Rwanda Engineering and Manufacturing Corporation (Remco) and the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centres (IPRCs) colleges to establish partnerships with international manufacturers of equipment and explosives, to locally produce these.
Another medium-term strategy encompasses expediting the resumption of the Rutongo Mines operations, where government is working with all concerned parties to expedite operations of Rutongo Mines to resolve issues linked to the pending long-term shareholder agreement. It is expected that Rutongo will resume full operations by the end of June.
RMB will also define mining and mineral exploration as a priority in the Investment Code and establish a Mineral Exploration Support Fund. The aim is to attract international mineral exploration companies, and de-risk exploration investments, key to achieve industrial scale mining operations, RMB explains.
Further, diversification, with a focus on gold, gemstones and strategic minerals (like rare earth elements, lithium and beryllium) will take place, which RMB says has “already proven to have potential”.
RMB will also look to enhance professionalisation of mining practices, while being mindful of the environment, health and safety, as well as long-term sustainability.
In this regard, RMB last week announced the guidelines to contain the spread of Covid-19 among employees in the mining sector and any other person they may be in contact with.
The guidelines outline adequate tunnel ventilation, de-densification, screening and testing mechanisms, require miners put in place tracing programmes, allow workers to work in shifts and provide relevant personal protective equipment, besides others.
The guidelines were developed following consultations with stakeholders and are in line with existing Covid-19 measures as set by the government of Rwanda.