The New Times (Kigali)

2 January 2009

Rwanda: Cassiterite Still Dominating Mineral Exports

Kigali — An electric arc smelter for one of the mining operators in western province.

Rwanda's mineral revenues remain dominated by cassiterite, a tin oxide mineral (SnO2) which fetched revenues to the tune of US$37.6m (Rwf20.5b) as of October, 2008.

The earnings from 3.7 million kgs of the extracted ore in the country represents a 45.9 percent of the total revenue of $81.9m (Rwf44.7b) in the same period.

Vincent Karega, State Minister of Environment and Mining explained that the mineral's dominancy is because of its abundant existence in Rwanda.

'Most areas of the country have the mineral in abundance and this is proven by its discovery way back during the colonial period', he added.

According to information from the Ministry of Natural Resources, cassiterite is exploited in 26 of the 30 districts within Rwanda with 185 exploration permits already operational.

The mineral sector is largely dominated by foreign companies such as Gatumba Mining Concession, from South Africa, Bay View group from US, and Rwanda Minerals mining from Germany.

Cassiterite is the main ore of tin today used to produce tin cans for food containers, solder and polishing compounds.

Statistics from the line ministry show that the mineral beat other Rwanda's key and highly valued minerals such as Wolfram (FeMnWO3), Coltan and Gold (Au).

Wolfram fetched US$10.9m (Rwf5.9b), Coltan US$30.6m (Rwf16.7b), and Gold US$1m (Rwf549m). The growth patterns for Wolfram, Cassiterite and Coltan between 2006 and 2007 amounted to 103.7 percent, 101.5 percent and 72.1 percent respectively.

These key minerals also fetched US$70.6m in 2007, representing 40 percent of the total national exports revenues. The mining sector's share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is also estimated at 10 percent.

This means that the sector is a growing, dynamic and promising industry as a major export contributor and job creator for Rwanda.

Over 50,000 jobs were created and earnings were expected at US$100m in 2007, a figure that was projected for 2011. However, Karega disclosed that surveys have also discovered other precious stones and minerals that are yet to be exploited.

Some of these include tourmaline, sapphire, topaz, corundum, chiastolite, amethyst, opal, agate and flint. He said the government is trying to attract investors to exploit these minerals in order to bolster the industry.

Surveys also indicated that the biggest part of Rwanda lies under the so called Kibaran Belt Rocks that are known to contain minerals.

The Kibaran Belt Rocks extends from Northern Tanzania, through South Western Uganda, underlying almost the whole of Rwanda and Burundi, then through South Eastern DR Congo up to Angola.

This comes at a time when the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group is set to invest in Rwanda's mining industry.

Ignance Bacyaha, IFC's Senior Operations Manager recently said that the corporation last year conducted a study on the mining industry in Rwanda and that the study revealed needs for investment and advisory services in the sector.

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