17 October 2017

Rwanda: Mining Accidents Claim 14 Lives in One Week

Photo: The New Times
Miners in a tunnel at Gatumba Mining Centre in Ngororero District (file photo).

Police investigations have narrowed down to irregularities within the mining industry, precisely illegal mining to be responsible for the death of 14 people recorded last week in the Southern Province.

Among the accidents recorded include one that happened on October 14, in Muhanga District, killing eight miners and injuring four others in Nyamirama Cell of Muhanga Sector.

The victims were illegally mining coltan when it caved in and buried them.

Prior to that, in the neighboring district of Ruhango, three people were buried in mining cave belonging to Cyusa Mining Enterprise following a mudslide.

The victims were identified as Francois Shyiriburyo, Sixbert Musabyimana, and Gabriel Hakizimana while in Ngororero District, Muhanda Sector, Gaseke Cell another victim was reported.

The victim, Fidel Manizabayo died on spot following a landslide that buried him in a tin mine.

Still in the same district on October 11, Muhororo Sector, Myiha Cell, Jean Maurice Tuyishimire died in a similar accident.

The Mayor of Muhanga District, Beatrice Uwamariya, where majority of the accidents happened pointed at illegal mining activities to be behind the fatalities.

Previous similar accidents were reported along the southern belt that is mainly rich with coltan.

According to Mayor Uwamariya, majority of the victims are those that opted to do it in an illegal way; they just dig up a ditches with hope that they would find a precious stones somewhere.

"These holes eventually become wide yet there are no pillars supporting them; even those that go in have no protective gear which eventually leads to accidents," said Uwamariya.

The artisanal miners are said to have kept a deaf ear on continued calls for them to work with certified mining companies.

According to the mayor, such accidents are rare among the certified companies since they have all the safety requirement in place unlike the illegal miners.

Reacting to the Muhanga mining accidents, the District Police Commander (DPC) Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) Jean Bosco Karega said preliminary investigation into the fatalities points at illegal mining or where miners were working without proper protective gear.

"It's absurd that there are people who ignore our frequent call to maintain mining standards and that's how we end up with such fatalities that otherwise could have been avoided. However, one of the measures is to step up our sensitisations and encourage people to work with registered companies since they have all the protection in place and are insured," said the DPC.

He said Police is working with local authorities at the grass root level to map out all places where illegal mining is conducted.

The DPC further advised mining operators to secure sites and restrict their accessibility to unauthorized personnel.

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