THE RMB INTERVIEW: “We are opening up our mining sector in a way that has not been done in the past, providing as much geological information as possible”

1) Tell us more about RMB’s vision and activities in Rwanda? It is a young institution but promises to put Rwanda on the mining map.
The RMB was established in February 2017 with a mission to transform the mining sector because even though mining  in Rwanda has been going on for over 80 years, it had not been given the sufficient regulatory attention.

The RMB was consequently established to do two things: One is to give Rwanda a thorough exploration strategy and carry out and obtain sufficient geological information that would help increase private investment in the mining sector. The second thing is to mobilise private investment so that we can change the profile of the mining sector, which until now has been predominantly done by small artisanal mining companies.

2) Is there more of a focus on professional mining training in your plans to develop the mining sector?
For a long time we have not had sufficient training facilities for professionals in various disciplines of mining. Fortunately, training is included in the vision to transform the mining sector and in the last five years, we have established the first ever School of Geology and Mining at the National University of Rwanda. That is going well and our first cohort will graduate in 2019 in various disciplines. Additionally, two technical and vocational institutes have programs in mining and mineral processing. We also continue to train outside the country. 

3) Are there any projects in Rwanda that you are currently excited about?
Yes absolutely, we have many pipeline projects, some more advanced than others, but perhaps the more exciting ones that we are carrying out now are the value addition projects in terms of processing and smelting of minerals produced in Rwanda. We have a tin smelter that opened in 2018. We are very excited about having the first and only tin smelter in the Central East African region. We have another project, a refinery for tantalum which is also opening up in Rwanda. Then we have a project that is ongoing, namely to carry out detailed exploration of various minerals that have been identified through initial airborne surveys. This will continue to generate a lot of geological information that we can bring to the attention of private investors.

We have also started to make discoveries with respect to lithium which is exciting - we have always known that amongst the 3Ts that are dominant in Rwanda, namely tin, tantalum and tungsten, there were traces of lithium, but it could not be verified as we had never done sufficient exploration. This is changing now and we are currently promoting blocks for lithium exploration in Rwanda. 

We have recently completed extensive exploration targeting lithium and have made impressive discoveries with high grades of between 5% and 8% at reasonable depths, which is quite unusual and beneficial for mining purposes. Apart from the 3Ts and lithium we are also focusing on exploring more gold and gemstone deposits and making all the information accessible to prospective investors. 

4) What is your vision for the mining sector in Rwanda and how does this align with the Africa Mining Vision?
Rwanda’s mining vision is fully aligned with the Africa Mining Vision (AMV). In fact, when we were articulating Rwanda's national policy for mining, we built a very close working relationship with the AMC Institution, the AMDC (African Minerals Development Centre) and the African Union. We work closely together through our alignment of the formalised three pillars of the AMV: 1. that mining should be a catalyst for industrialisation in Africa, 2. that mineral resources be effectively exploited and utilised in the context of regional integration and 3. that mineral revenues should transform the lives of the people and improve their wellbeing.

Geology tends to be regional. There is no single country that has a monopoly on its own geological endowments; they tend to be regional and similar in many regards. This makes it important to share geological information across the region. It's also very important for the country to share experiences and in turn start to see mineral resources as regional projects, especially when you begin to think about processing on a competitive level that would bring in economic returns.

5) What is your message to prospective investors about the opportunities in Rwanda mining sector?
Mining requires three different building blocks, namely private companies that bring capital to invest in mining, the government which provides the regulatory environment and helps facilitate business activity and the third element is the regulatory framework for environmental management.

We are opening up our mining sector in a way that has not been done in the past, providing as much geological information as possible and we have recently revised our regulatory framework from policy to mining code and regulation - to not only make it competitive for companies to operate in but to also provide a platform that will make it easy for companies to comply with regulatory requirements.

It’s an exciting time for mining sector development in Rwanda, and I wish to invite investors to seriously consider the opportunities on offer.