Rwanda: Inside Rwanda's New Investments in Minerals

Mining activities at Ntunga site.

Rwanda is now home to two refineries of gold and tin, both of which have the capacity to process large amounts of minerals from within the country and the region.

The refineries are Aldango, which is located at the Kigali Special Economic Zone, and LuNa Smelter, which redeveloped Karuruma tin smelter to enable the facility process cassiterite into finished tin products.

Both companies are joint ventures between local and foreign investors.

Aldango is a joint venture of Hilly Metals Company and Aldabra, while LuNa Smelter is owned by Rwandan and Polish investors.

This comes in the wake of the country's efforts to turn the mining sector into a vibrant, dynamic and efficient industry that is able to contribute a big share to the country's growing economy.

In the first Quarter of 2019, Rwanda registered a growth rate of 8.4 percent.

A local mineral trader who preferred anonymity told The New Times that the establishment of the refineries will add value to the sector.

"This will bring more value addition to the sector, which also means creating more job opportunities. This is because regional raw tin is likely to flow to Rwanda where these factories exist," he noted.

He added that this should be positive for genuine traders, citing a situation that if you currently transport around 25 tonnes of raw tin, you are likely to lose 40 per cent of potential revenue.

"This is because the tin you are exporting contains impurities in addition to the high cost of transportation that is associated with trading raw minerals," the source noted.

Moreover, he also stated that for traders to resort to local refineries, it will depend on a competitive price that they will be given on the local market.

Gold refinery

The New Times visited Aldango on Tuesday at the Kigali Special Economic Zone.

Workers at different sections of the automated facility were busy refining gold.

This refinery, officials said, has the capacity to process gold from across the continent, boosting efforts by many countries on the continent to fetch more revenues from their natural resources.

Jean de Dieu Mutunzi, the company chairman said; "We have built an advanced factory with enough capacity to process large quantities of gold from all around Africa."

Aldango was constructed at a tune of $5 million. It has an installed capacity of 6 tonnes of gold a month, or about 220 kilogrammes a day.

Officials at the former mineral trading company believe that there won't be a need for traders to continue taking their unprocessed gold to Europe, Dubai, or Turkey as the facility has standards like other factories in those countries.

This could be a relief to African nations whose larger amounts of gold were being transported to foreign countries, without getting much value out of it.

Tin smelting

Meanwhile, new investors have taken over the operations of Karuruma tin smelter, the only local tin smelter, which had for so long been operating below its capacity and unable to refine finished Tin products.

Ngali Holdings, a Rwandan company, and Luma Holdings, a Polish firm, co-invested $7 million (about Rwf6.3 billion) to revive the operations of the smelter.

According to Krzysztof Zamasz, the chief executive of LuNa Smelter, the facility is now able to process more than 300 tonnes of cassiterite per month, or around 12 tonnes a day.

"What we are doing now is creating partnerships with artisanal miners to make sure that we get large volumes of cassiterites as we have already received an exploration licence," he noted.

The company is also in the process of acquiring idle concessions that are not fully utilised to increase the volume of cassiterite, as well as serve other regional countries.

Innocent Zitoni, the Managing Director of Rwanda Mining and Trading Company, a local company licensed to explore and trade minerals, told The New Times that it was a big move for traders as having a local refinery will bring more value to miners and reduce costs associated with refining abroad.

A company like LuNa Smelter is trying to work to meet the standards of London Metal Exchange (LME), the world's largest market for industrial metals, to make sure it processes internationally recognised metals.

Companies selling at LME normally get a premium value when they trade tin ingots.

The Trade and Industry Minister, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, cited that facilitating the establishment of such refineries Rwanda was attempting to answer the question of why the continent was exporting raw commodities.

Outlook

Francis Gatare, the chief executive of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum & Gas Board (RMB), pointed out that the mining sector was continuing to grow and that Rwanda was diversifying the sector.

"Mining continues to grow in importance and size. For long, the mining sector was dominated by 3Ts (tin, tantalum and tungsten)," he noted.

However, he added, Rwanda has for the last two years expanded its diversification strategy to include other minerals, particularly gemstones, gold, and industrial minerals.

"Lithium is also coming to the market," Gatare said.

According to data from RMB, Rwanda's mineral exports generated $399 million in 2017-2018 financial year, from 7,000 tonnes.

The country targets to generate $600 million in export revenues, from 10,000 tonnes, of minerals in 2018-2019.

By January this year, $373 million had already been generated.

The mining sector has been growing at an average rate of 20 per cent since 2006-2007.

Mining and quarrying activities in Rwanda employ more than 40,000 people.

The country targets to further increase minerals export revenues to $800 million by 2020 and $1.5 billion annually by 2024.

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