Kigali — Rwanda's Ministry of Natural Resources has suspended mining activities in the country's western province on the basis that they were endangering the nearby River Sebeya.
Dr. Michael Biryabarema, the Director General of Geology and Mines Department (GMD) in the Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed the development that has left over 10 companies that mainly mine Wolfram and Coltan redundant.
While it's not clear when the firms will resume work, thousands of workers employed by the mining activities in three districts of the Province are currently out of work.
In a letter to all the mining firms affected, Rwanda's Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi reportedly informed the miners to keep away from the mines as a measures to safeguard River Sebeya.
According to sources within the ministry, locals who use the River in the districts of Ngororero, Rustiro and Nyabihu complained to local authorities that the river's waters had gone dirty as a result of miners dumping substances in it.
The Ministry says, in efforts to maintain the environment, clauses within the various contracts between the Government and mining companies mandates the Government to suspend activities if deemed as hazardous to the environment.
Officials at the Rwanda Environment Management Authorities (REMA) welcomed the move reasoning that while mining is good for the economy, minerals are an exhaustible resource whose extraction should not compromise the welfare of the environment, an everlasting need for human life.
Jean Malic Kalima, the Chairman of the Rwanda Mining Association also supported the suspension saying it's in line with one of their commitments to REMA to undertake environmental friendly activities.
It's alleged that in the process of carrying out their mining activities, some companies have been diverting the river while looking for more minerals something he said was dangerous to the river originality and function.
However, Dr. Biryabarema says the ministry is working out new specific measures that the miners will follow in order to ensure the river and other environment elements are not endangered.
As part of efforts to modernize the mining sector, Dr Biryabarema reveals that his ministry aims at creating three modern and large scale industrial mines and over 100 well managed small and medium mines with the capacity to generate 50,000 jobs by 2020.
According to Kalima, his association, in partnership with Rwanda Environment Management Authority and the Minerals ministry will organize a training session among employees of mining companies across the country on how they can carry out their daily mining activities in a more professional manner.
Of late, Mining has a new found reputation as one of Rwanda's leading export earners.
In the year 2010, it generated $96.4 million contributing 30% of total exports. In 2011, the sector pulled in over $164million and according to figures at the Rwanda Central Bank, by June 2012, mineral exports had earned Rwanda at least $64.6million indicating it could near last year's performance.