Rwanda Tightens COVID-19 Controls in Mines

The Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) has announced guidelines to contain the possible spread of Covid-19 amongst employees in the mining sector and any other person they may contact.

The guidelines outline adequate tunnel ventilation to avoid suffocation, avoid overcrowding of workers in the tunnels, introduce work shifts, as well as screening and testing mechanisms.

The new guidelines also asks mining operators and quarry owners to provide relevant personal protective equipment (PPEs) to all workers, and require miners put in place tracing programmes.

RMB says the guidelines were developed following consultations with stakeholders in line with existing Covid-19 measures set by the government such as physical distancing, wearing of masks and handwashing.

"We want to ensure that they are protected from infection in the workplace, and this will also help the community where they live," Francis Gatare, RMB Chief Executive said in a statement on Friday.

"This virus is deadly but the good news is that it's preventable," he added.

Gatare called on mining and quarry operators to act in accordance with the guidelines.

The guidelines also stipulate that mining and quarry owners have to put in place risk assessment mechanisms to identify any risk or hazard to the safety and health in the mining activities.

The new guidelines come to support the existing mining safety code of practice.

The mining sector employs about 100,000 people, according to RMB but with the pandemic the sector is among those that have been hard due to restriction of movement and disruption of supply chain.

Globally, mining and mineral trading activities have slowed down as a result of lockdown measures that several countries have put in place, as well as halting of airline schedules.

Statistics show that revenue exports of 3Ts decreased by 30.9 per cent due to the drop in international commodity prices in January and February 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

During the same period, prices of Coltan dropped by -4.6 per cent, Wolfram by -15.3 per cent, and Cassiterite by -14.5 per cent as demand for mined products fell due to slow economic activity.

In May, the Government highlighted plans to help the sector recover, which includes reorganising small-scale mining operators, consolidating many of them into collective investment groups.

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