The Ministry of Natural Resources (Minirena) has suspended the work of all the mining companies that have been operating around River Sebeya in the western Province, rendering thousands of Rwandans jobless.
The Rwanda Focus has learnt that the activities of the mining companies located in the three districts of Ngororero, Rutsiro and Nyabihu were suspended last month. There are over 10 companies that mainly mine Wolfram and Coltan.
“It has been found out that the mining activities around River Sebeya have been a serious threat in as far as environmental protection is concerned in that area and it’s in this regard that our ministry decided to temporarily suspend all the mining companies operating around that River,” Dr. Michael Biryabarema, the Director General of Geology and Mines Department (GMD) in the Ministry of Natural Resources told The Rwanda Focus.
Dr Biryabarema also said that last month, the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi wrote a letter to all the mining companies that have been operating around the River Sebeya informing them about the ministry’s decision.
He noted that their decision to suspend the companies came after the ministry found out that the mining activities in the area were a serious hazard to the river, saying that currently the river’s waters are dirty due to the mining activities that have been taking place around it. Contracts between the government and the mining companies regarding how to carry out their activities differ depending on the category of each company. But there is a clause that calls for suspension if the companies carry out their activities in ways that Minirena deems detrimental to the environment.
Now Minirena is working on various strategies and mechanisms that will help the mining companies around the river to resume their activities while working in a more effective and efficient manner which is environmentally friendly.
The total value of mineral exports last year was over US$150 million making it the country’s second foreign exchange earner after tourism.
“We realize the potential and importance of the mining sector in our country’s development and this means that we are working around clock to ensure that the mining activities around River Sebeya go back on track,” Dr Biryabarema said.
In a meeting organized by Minirena in June this year, Dr Biryabarema stressed that his ministry has a vision of creating three modern and large scale industrial mines and over 100 well managed small and medium mines which are able to create 50,000 jobs by 2020.
The Governor of the Western Province, Celestin Kabahizi said that he recently held a meeting with the mining companies in Muhanda sector in Ngororero District where he briefed them on how they can carry out their activities without affecting the River Sebeya and the environment in general.
“We have to ensure that while we are striving for maximum profits in the mining sector in our province, there is also a need not to undermine factors that like environmental and social responsibilities to communities in which these companies have been operating from,” Kabahizi said told The Rwanda Focus.
Kabahizi also pointed out that in process of carrying out their mining activities, some companies have been diverting the river while looking for more minerals something he said was dangerous to the river originality and function.
Rwanda Mining Association (RMA) Chairman, Jean Malic Kalima, welcomed the move.
“I believe that the government decision to suspend mining companies around River Sebeya was right because these companies have been carrying out their activities in ways that destroy the environment. But our association is going to carry out a study on how the water around the river can be treated after mining activities there,” Kalima told The RwandaFocus.
According Kalima, his association, in partnership with Rwanda Environment Management Authority and Minirena will organize a training session among employees of mining companies across the country on how they can carry out their daily mining activities in a more professional manner.
He added that the association is also planning mechanisms and strategies of rehabilitating the areas where mining activities have taken place countrywide.
“This will significantly contribute to environmental protection especially River Sebeya and mountains in the country,” he said, adding that RMA is doing everything possible to bring mining activities around River Sebeya back on track.
Last month, the association elected a committee that will supervise how mining companies carry out their daily activities and offer advice to the mining companies in the country.
Chairman of Rwanda Mining Association in the Western Province refused to speak about the issue saying that he was busy.
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