What would it take for mining sector to adopt new technology?

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According to Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) over 50 per cent of the minerals is lost due to poor mining techniques.

This, according to Francis Gatare, the CEO of the Board, has an effect on mining productivity for both mining operators and the country’s economy.

If not addressed, poor mining techniques could derail efforts to generate $1.5B in annual revenues from the mining sector by 2024.

Gatare said that to boost the revenues and meet the set targets more investments in exploration and modern mining techniques.

“By 2024 at least 65 percent of mining operators in Rwanda will have embraced modern and efficient mining techniques that maximize mining productivity based on professional research and exploration, comply with environmental protection guidelines as well as workers safety,” he said.

“With new investments and modern mining techniques, we are confident of achieving the targets despite the challenges on the international market and disruption caused by Covid-19,” he added.

Miners working at Rutongo mining site . / Photos: File.

He said that among the techniques include minerals separation and processing techniques that can help in increasing mining revenues.

Gatare noted that considering that outdated mining activities also have a negative impact on the environment; the mining operators should adopt   sustainable mining techniques and rehabilitate the mining sites.

 “This requires training mining operators and new measures on how the sector should protect the environment because most of them do not comply with environment protection guidelines,” he said.

Venuste Twahirwa, the Executive Secretary at St.Simion Metals Company Ltd which is involved in the exploration of Coltan and Cassiterite in Rwamagana District said that while the sector needs support to recover from the Covid-19, companies should devise the sustainable way of investing modern mining technologies and filling skills gaps.

“We also need skills related to compliance in protecting the environment because we are not doing well in terms of rehabilitating the sites. We are also still using traditional and poor mining techniques which limits the revenue generation. We will gradually phase traditional techniques because it requires more investment,” he said.

Supporting the mining sector to recover from Covid-19 related slowdown is expected to preserve jobs and create new ones.

In 2019 before the Covid-19 outbreak, the mining sector employed about 71,205 workers, an increase from 47, 727 workers in 2017, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

However, due to the slowdown in mining and mining processing operations as a result of the pandemic, the number fell by 19 per cent to 57, 379.

As the government helps the sector to recover from Covid-19 effects, there is hope that the number of jobs in the mining and extraction sector could increase to 100,000 jobs in 2021.

$60 million for sustainable mining

Rwanda’s 10-year climate plan, there is a need of over $60 million to ensure climate compatible mining by 2030.

Climate compatible mining is also expected to phase out diesel generators for on-site electricity consumption and be replaced with grid and/or on-site renewable power production to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Juliette Kabera the Director General of Rwanda Environment and Management Authority emphasized that while the country targets to generate more revenues in the mining sector, mining operators should integrate environment protection in their operations.

“We have been training mining operators on environmental protection laws and guidelines to ensure sustainable mining. They should rehabilitate mining sites, plant trees among others. We also urge them to use modern and eco-friendly mining techniques,” she said.

She said that many mining companies are polluting the environment such as water bodies and other activities that pave the way for soil erosion.

Statistics show that there are over 3,000 mining sites across the country.

The new technology is also expected to improve mine safety for operators curbing the number of accidents and incidents. According to the report by Rwanda Mines Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) at least 116 mining deaths were recorded in 2018 and 106 in 2019.

SOURCE: THE NEW TIMES

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