9 January 2013

Rwanda: Nyaruguru District - Mining Sector On a Halt As Extraction Conditions Are Being Studied

Beneath the jungle-covered hills of Busanze sector in Nyaruguru district, Southern Rwanda, lies a bunch of mineral reserves of coltan, a mineral reportedly used in the making of mobile telephones.

The coltan's perimeter also extends to the sectors of Muganza and Ruheru, in Nyaruguru district still, district officials maintain.

"The research permits have been given out to two extraction companies. But for the moment, the mining sector is not bringing anything into the district coffers", Nyaruguru district Mayor, François Habitegeko, told a press conference last November.

"The real extraction operations have not yet started", Mayor Habitegeko hastened to add.

And now, the situation at the would-be mine extraction sites in Busanze sector has taken a new twist.

This news website has had access to two copies of printed documents from the Nyaruguru district top leadership preventing the United Exporters Company Ltd and Bocca Costa Kanyandekwe, two mining companies, from exploiting the coltan reserves in Nkanda, Kirarangombe and Nteko cells in Busanze sector on grounds of inadequate exploitation methods.

An eight-point document dated 4 May 2012 appears to remind the Manager of United Exporters Company Ltd of requirements to meet, failure to do so would result in the suspension from all mining activities in the area.

Through the letter, Mayor Habitegeko was asking the company, among other requirements, to provide a detailed account of how to preserve the environment within the mining perimeter, the exact number of miners and their wages, miners' insurance in case of accidents, hygiene and sanitation.

"Failure to do so within one month after the issue of this letter, you would face sanctions in line with the law", Mayor Habitegeko warned the United Exporters Company Ltd.

A few months later, the two companies got suspended after failing to meet the minerals' exploitation norms.

The two mining companies have been at odds with some of the local population, too.

60-year-old Anastasie Mwashamba from Nkanda cell can be seen at the Busanze sector premises, complaining to the Executive Secretary of the sector over alleged arrears from Bocca Costa Kanyandekwe Company for her rented, coltan-rich plot.

"My plot is about two hectares and the company [Bocca Costa Kanyandekwe] used to pay me Rwf 200,000 (about $ 317) per month in rent. But that's no more. It's been about a year now. So I just want our leaders to suspend the company since it's no longer honoring the contract", said Mwashamba, with an ironic smile on her lips.

But the United Exporters Company Ltd has, to date, lived up to the Nyaruguru district's norms of minerals' exploitation.

"We met the requirements last October and in November we wrote a letter to Nyaruguru district officials updating them on the situation. They have already paid us a visit to assess the situation and they have given us a green-light", said Jean Bosco Hakizimana, Manager of the United Exporters Company Ltd, adding that works are set to resume before the end the month.

Something Nyaruguru district officials have also confirmed.

According to Louis Nyaminani, Executive Secretary of Busanze sector, the resumption of works at the two mining sites - under proper working conditions - is expected to create jobs for the local population and foster an increase in tax revenues, among other advantages.

The United Exporters Company Ltd's minerals exploitation perimeter is said to cover an estimated 600 hectares while the other company, Bocca Costa Kanyandekwe, reportedly extends to an over 9,000 hectare-perimeter.

Minerals like coltan, gold and many more rank among Rwanda's main exports.

Rwandan Government's figures suggest that the country has raised an estimated $ 128 million in minerals' exports in the year 2012. It targets to raise up to $ 400 million come the year 2017.

In his state of the nation address on December 31 last year, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said the size of the country's exports has been growing up over the years but he acknowledged that there's still an imbalance between imports and exports: Rwanda imports more than it exports.

"Minerals are increasingly playing a big role in increasing the size of our country's economy... and it's clear that in the future, the minerals' production will be much higher and provide Rwandans with many opportunities, including job opportunities", said President Kagame.

Apparently, while there's a high sense of determination to boost the minerals' production from the grassroots upwards, it's still clear that the safety of miners overrides anything else: proper, environment-friendly conditions have to be met beforehand.

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