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Handing Back Colonial-Era Mining Data will support Rwanda’s mineral exploration efforts, says RMB

The move by Belgium to hand back the data on geology and mining on Rwanda which was recorded during the colonial era will support Rwanda’s mineral exploration efforts. This is according to Francis Gatare the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum & Gas Board (RMB).

Gatare said the digital data will also facilitate Rwanda’s search for new mineral prospects.

“This will back exploration which government has embarked on to discover and know the status of minerals we have in Rwanda, their location and quantities,” he said.

The Chairperson of Rwanda Mining Association, Jean Malick Kalima, said the data will help them to know minerals deposits that were explored during the colonial era and use it new explorations.

“We expect more data related to geology and mining they recorded in this period,” he said.

Rwanda is keen on diversifying mineral exports to shore-up foreign exchange revenues and bridge the trade deficit.

The data and research on geology and mining in Rwanda have been digitised and returned to Kigali.

The 16 terabyte files were being stored at the Royal Museum for Central Africa and are critical to identifying areas where mineral explorations were conducted during the colonial era.

Mining in Rwanda started in 1934 in Rutongo, meaning the country’s colonial masters, Belgium, have kept geology and mining data for 86 years.

“We signed an agreement in 2008 for the files transfer…it has taken over a year to digitize the files. They are very useful because professional mining requires to know the location of mineral deposits and their quantities,” Gatare stated.

As part of the efforts to professionalise the sector, Gatare said that the first 120 graduates from the School of Geology and Mining were equipped with skills in minerals exploration.

Over the next five years, the country plans to train more than 500 experts in the mining sector, Gatare disclosed.

“This is the step to shift from artisanal to professional mining. But it requires adequate investments in mining and environmentally friendly techniques for professional mining,” he said.

Rwanda is also keen on diversifying mineral exports to shore-up foreign exchange revenues and bridge the trade deficit.

“We have prospects for new minerals in Rwanda. We are also looking at adding value to the discovered minerals instead of exporting them in their raw form and this will increase jobs to locals,” Gatare added.

Among the newly explored minerals include gemstones, copper, cobalt, nickel, iron, lithium and other rare earth minerals.

With digitised data, the government is confident it will attract more investments in the mining sector, especial in the exploration and processing of lithium.

Studies have indicated that Rwamagana, Nyanza and Muhanga have the potential for lithium metal deposits.

Lithium is used as raw materials to produce remote car locks, a watch, camera, laser pointer, MP3 players, hearing aids, calculators or encountered thermometers, battery backup systems in computers, remote control toys as well as bleaching and sanitation products, agrochemicals, aluminium alloys, cement and concrete additives, dyes and pigments, and pharmaceuticals.

Gatare also disclosed that government plans to establish a Fund to incentivise investors in mineral exploration.

Benoît Ryelandt, the Ambassador of Belgium to Rwanda said that bilateral cooperation between Rwanda and Belgium has led to the transfer of colonial-era minerals data.

“It is a major contribution to share the data on geology and mining we have. It took long because it can’t take a week or even a month. It is a long process since it is a huge quantity of data that were in different formats,” he said.

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