China has dispatched mining experts to Rwanda to implement a three-year cooperative project to carry out geochemical survey to determine the full mineral potential across the country by using satellite remote sensing technology.
The project dubbed "Geological Survey and Mineral Assessment in Rwanda" is a result of an agreement that was signed by Rwanda and China during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Rwanda two years ago according to Francis Gatare, the CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board.
"They will be picking samples in valleys, river streams and hills to determine what mineral exist across the country. We will measure 56 elements of different minerals. The Chinese have got satellite remote sensing technology that is going to be employed in carrying out an understanding of the geological map of Rwanda," he said.
He noted that the technology will be used to complement the existing geological map of Rwanda and other information to understand the mineral potential in the Country, he said.
He explained that there will be a Rwandan team who studied Mining school at the University of Rwanda that will work closely with geologists and other geoscientists to go across the country to pick samples and test mineral potential.
At least 118 Chinese geologists will help to implement the project that transfers experience to Rwandan mineral experts.
"The objective is that at the end of that, we shall have a complete understanding of the full mineral potential of Rwanda. This is very important for us, because as a country we are currently implementing a programme to transform the mining sector into a professional sector which must rely on geological and mineral information of our country," he said.
Gatare added that the institution he heads is also working with China to equip a geochemical laboratory in Kanombe sector for testing minerals and establish Online Data Base for research data.
The laboratory will be completed in June next year, he said.
"All this is going to professionalise the mining sector and contribute to attracting competitive investment," he said.
Rao Hongwei, the Chinese ambassador in Rwanda, said that the successful exchange of visits and meetings between President Xi Jinping and President Kagame during the past two and a half years has bolstered Sino-Rwanda cooperations and that relationship has also started bearing fruits.
“The Project of Geological Survey and Mineral Resources Assessment is one of them. We are here to jointly witness the outcome of President Xi’s Rwanda visit being put into practice. It’s not only a historical breakthrough in our bilateral mining cooperation, but also a symbol of China-Rwanda strategic partnership,” he said.
Ambassador Hongwei further stressed the importance of mining to the acceleration of Rwandan industrialization process considering how the First Phase of National Strategy for Transformation has made mining resources the key driver of Rwanda’s development.
“Over the past two years, Rwanda mining board has made great effort to roll out mining and safety standards, propose new mining laws, introduce supporting policies, encourage more investments, promote production efficiency and increase the added value of products,” he added.
In 2017/18, Rwanda’s mineral export became the second biggest foreign exchange earner with a generation of $399 million, surpassing coffee and tea, right after tourism.
Government targets to increase minerals export revenues to $800 million by 2020 and $1.5 billion annually by 2024.
The Chinese Ambassador, however, said that Rwandan mining sector is going through a critical and difficult transition, from the small-scale exploitation with limited links to the rest of the economy to a major pillar of national industrialization.
“It’s really a demanding and challenging task. China, the biggest producer of mineral resources and a major player in the global mining market, won’t just stand by at this moment. We do have the willing and capacity to make contributions,” he said.
China’s experience in the mining sector
China’s advantage in geochemistry, satellite remote sensing and aero-geophysical participating is recognised worldwide.
Chinese mining companies account for 12 of the world’s 40 largest companies.
“China carries out in-depth bilateral and multilateral cooperation with more than 50 developing countries in mining area. Just in 2017, 40 international cooperation projects on geological survey were carried out. It’s our pleasure if Rwandan mining industry can benefit from what China has achieved,” noted Hongwei.
In the past, China has invited more than 40 Rwandan officials and technicians to attend training seminars and courses on geological survey and mineral resource management.