Rwanda has licensed more than 30 companies to carry out mining and quarry activities in its latest efforts to boost the mining sector and position it to drive post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
The licenses, approved by a cabinet meeting on Monday, December 14 also aim to diversify the country’s mineral exports, which are dominated by traditional minerals.
“There were 36 companies altogether,” Francis Gatare, the Chief Executive Officer at Rwanda Mines, Gas and Petroleum Board, told The New Times on Tuesday.
Of those, 17 firms were granted exploration licenses, 13 mining while six companies were licensed to carry out quarrying activities.
The mining licenses are mainly for tin, tungsten and tantalum, according to Gatare, who also disclosed that some companies were given licenses to carry out mining exploration for gold and gemstones.
Tin, tungsten and tantalum, also known as 3Ts, are Rwanda’s top mineral exports.
For years, the country has been one of the world’s leading exporters of these minerals.
However, the Covid-19 outbreak has hit commodity prices globally, driving a tumble in Rwanda mineral exports particularly 3Ts.
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.
Now the Rwanda Government is pursuing a series of strategies to revive the mining sector, and Gatare indicated that it was important to grant new licenses especially for companies in mining activities.
That is because they can go into production immediately to raise production and export revenues.
“But for our medium-term strategy, the 17 exploration companies are more important,” he noted. “They are being licensed in areas where the Government has already done extensive ground surveys and made mineral discoveries.”
Exploration activities are expensive in nature, and the sector is currently under-funded as many financial institutions, especially banks see them as unpredictable ventures
The chief executive said the companies are expected to make detailed exploration that will guide them in the future, to raise capital and do professional mines development.
“Moreover with additional licenses in gemstones and gold are part of a broader diversification strategy, beyond reliance on the traditional 3Ts,” he said.
According to the Mines Board, exploration licenses are normally for a period of up to four years, which can be renewed if necessary. Among those licensed, one of the licenses was for renewal.
Mining licenses, on the other hand, depend on the. Small and medium scale licenses range up to 5 and 10 years respectively, while long-term licenses are up to 15 years.
As for quarries, only industrial level licenses are granted at national level and those granted new licenses included companies such as Prime Cement, and Ruliba Clays.