Over the course of many years, there have been countless myths around the mining sector in Rwanda, one of which is that there are no mineral deposits in Rwanda. But unbeknown to many, Rwanda actually boasts a continually rising and thriving mining sector. Ongoing explorations of minerals conducted by the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board have revealed that Rwanda is endowed with natural resources. Over 100 licensed miners own concessions nationwide. In terms of revenues, the mining sector industry came from $373 million in 2017 to $733 million in 2020.
The land of a thousand hills is rich in various minerals and rocks. These include Metallic Ores (such as wolfram, cassiterite, coltan, and gold), Gemstones (such as amethyst, emerald, sapphire and ruby), Industrial Minerals and Rocks (such as garnet, muscovite, feldspar and kaolin), and Dimension Stones (such as granite, dolomite, marble and volcanic rocks), to mention but a few. These are applied in various ways such as jewelry, construction material, electronics, paints, glass, ceramics, and much more.
The mines are owned, managed and operated by individuals, companies, and cooperatives. They comprise of qualified men and women, many of whom are certified mining engineers and geologists from the School of Mining and Geology at the University of Rwanda and Rwanda Polytechnic. They ensure the safety of the mine workers through daily inspections of the tunnels before operations commence, to determine that they are intact and safe. They also ensure that workers are equipped with the necessary and required safety equipment such as helmets, boots, and pumps that ventilate the tunnels.
A miner inside the tunnel wearing personal protective equipment (pictured)
In addition to protecting the workers, they also prioritize protecting the environment surrounding the mining sites by designing efficient systems to recycle the water used in daily operations. They avoid soil erosion by planting trees and preserve vegetation cover around the site, and replant previously cut-down trees after the site has been fully exhausted.
Eco-friendly mining is prioritized by miners
To further protect the workers and environment, electricity is the adopted source of power for the machines used at the mines; drillers, bulldozers, water pumps, gravity table shakers, as well as providing sufficient light in the tunnels, drastically reducing the emission of harmful gases in the air.
Mining companies are contributing a great deal to the social and economic transformation in Rwanda. It is very noteworthy to underscore the employment opportunities recent mining engineers graduates access as many of them end up working in the mines. At the grassroots level, mine owners are at the forefront in bringing about concrete changes in peoples’lives. They set up commercial centers, schools and create income-generating activities. Miners are provided with medical insurance and other benefits which get them a lease of life.
The positive impact of mining on the local communities is multifaceted. Pictured is a resort infrastructure built by a mining cooperative in Gakenke district.
Thanks to the Government of Rwanda and the catalytic laws and regulations it has put in place to modernize the industry, the mining sector has become more professional and continues to grow steadily.