Rwanda Mining Board (RMB) has said that the country is endowed with mineral deposits and this presents an opportunity for investment as the country only mines 30 to 40% of the deposits.
Data shows that Rwanda was the world’s 3rd largest coltan producer in 2021 with 270 tons per annum behind DR Congo and Brazil. Rwandan coltan mines are believed to produce the world’s best quality coltan reaching up to 60% Tantalum oxide- Ta2O5 (used in optical glass, fiber, and other instruments).
Global mining reports show that most mineral deposits in the region are in the DRC, and some argue that Rwanda depends on the neighboring countries for its mining sector.
However, Donat Donat Nsengumuremyi, the RMB Mining Extraction & Inspection Division Manager says that there is a lack of awareness about the presence of minerals in Rwanda due to historical aspects of the country where mining was mainly done by colonialists and foreign corporations, and lack of awareness among citizens.
He said that the geological structure of Rwanda and its neighboring countries (Uganda, DRC, and Burundi) have some minerals in common (coltan, cassiterite, wolfram) but there are some gemstone minerals (lithium, beryllium, etc.) that are specifically in larger quantities in Rwanda.
Nsengumuremyi said that other countries are focusing on minerals like copper and cobalt which Rwanda doesn’t have but is focusing on mining and creating awareness of the presence of other rare minerals and gemstones- which are in larger quantities in Rwanda.
“We have decided to focus on these minerals that we have in plenty and can have a larger production than Congo. That is why we are raising awareness among Rwandans,” Nsengumuremyi said during a specialized media tour ahead of the International Mining Day next week Monday.
RMB says that there are seven kinds of mineral currently mined in Rwanda and exploration research has shown other new mineral deposits which have not been mined yet.
Gaps in Mining:
There are currently 150 mining companies and cooperatives around the country and the most activity is seen in the southern province and the western provinces.
The districts of Rulindo, Rutsiro, Muhanga, Kamonyi and Rwamagana are among the top mining areas while Gisagara and Kirehe have comparatively lesser activity.
Though there are mineral deposits across every district in the country, RMB says that Rwanda lacks updated mining technology and thus a need for investment in tech to be able to explore the minerals 100 percent.
Currently, most mines, including those visited by the local media, use rudimental tools inside the mining tunnels that need hiring casual laborers, and thus few quantities are mined daily.
At the processing, it is evident that mining companies use the ground sourcing method- where the minerals are manually separated from the dust using water sieving means.
At the refining stage, a number of plants use modern technology, especially in refining Tantallum (coltan) at Bugesera Mining and Trading Company ; cassiterite at Luna Smelter and gold refining at Gasabo Gold refinery.
“We are currently focusing research technology to record the actual amounts of gemstones, but also in need of investments in mining and processing technology to improve the mineral quality and sorting before sending them on the market,” Nsengumuremyi said.
RMB says that, in the next three years, they plan to do extensive research on the new mineral deposits and discover more minerals currently demanded on the mineral market.
Several mineral exploration works have been conducted in Rwanda since colonial times but the most recent was in 2021- a feasibility study for glass manufacturing in Rwanda in the areas of Kirambo, Masangano and Kirehe. Findings confirmed enough good quality silica sands and other raw materials for the glass industry.