Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Miners upbeat ahead of Kigali global meet


Experts examine minerals at a mining site

A major international mining conference that has attracted some world renowned mineral wealth countries and end-users kicks off in Kigali today.

The four-day sixth Responsible Mineral Supply Chains summit is expected to attract more than 350 participants, including investors from mineral wealth countries such as DR Congo, Australia, Switzerland, South Africa and Germany, as well as traders and end-users from electronic manufacturers.

Organised by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the UN Group of Experts on the DR Congo, the forum is anticipated by the local mining fraternity as a strong platform to present their side of the coin, which in the past, has largely been ignored.

Among the claims is that Rwanda has no significant mineral potential; that Rwanda’s main minerals–tin, coltan and wolfram–are only but illegal re-exports from the DR Congo.

This perception has over the years affected Rwanda’s trade relations, with mineral buyers, particularly from Europe and America, being suspicious of minerals exported from Rwanda and the region.

“This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate to end-users that our minerals are clean and to show them evidence, that, we carry out mining professionally,” Jean Malic Kalima, the president of Rwanda Mining Association (RMA), said.

In 2011, government, handed over to DR Congo about 82 tonnes of smuggled minerals seized by Police.

Also in October, this year, government announced that it would send back to DR Congo 70 tonnes of untagged minerals smuggled into the country.

“We have engaged many international organisations and asked them why they continue to claim that our minerals are from conflict zones even when we have fulfilled all the requirements of the mineral traceability scheme. This forum will be an opportunity for them to visit sites and see the truth for themselves rather than rely on rumours,” Kalima added.

The association represents 420 mining and trading companies, as well as 34 cooperatives.

Origin of perceptions

In July 2010, US President Barack Obama signed into law an act that required American electronic companies to verify and disclose their sources of cassiterite, wolframite, and tantalum, the three minerals which happen to be Rwanda’s major exports.

The US aimed to curb the flow of “conflict minerals” which were singled out as the fuel to armed violence in DR Congo.

Subsequently, the mineral tagging and traceability scheme, known as ITSCi, was launched by London-based International Tin Research Institute (ITRI). The system was a requirement for DR Congo and its adjourning countries if they were to continue exporting minerals to the west.

The law required these regulations to be in place by April 15, 2011, but by deadline day, only Rwanda and some swathes of eastern DR Congo had implemented it.

Due to the looming embargo, however, Rwanda’s export receipts from minerals dropped by 5.9 per cent between April and June 2011, sliding by $2m to $32m.

In the following years, Rwanda continued implementing the ITSCi mineral traceability system, becoming the first country in the region to fully implement it.

The Minister of State for Minerals, Evode Imena, said the tagging scheme is performing well since all minerals exported from the country are now tagged and traceable.

“One of the biggest challenges is the wrong impression that has been created by some individuals, who claim that Rwanda is not a mining country,” Imena said.

“This has recently led to constant pressures on market access and puts us at a risk of seeing downstream companies stopping sourcing from the region.”

Rwanda’s mineral revenues have also improved significantly in recent years, fetching $136.6m (about Rwf86.7 billion) last year, only bettered by tourism.

In a move to streamline mineral trade, Rwanda, last week, became the first in the region to issue the ICGLR Mineral Export Certificate.

Miners upbeat ahead of Kigali global meet


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