Rwanda: Over 100 Illegal Mines Identified as Accidents Kill 429 in Five Years

Mine accidents have killed at least 419 people while 272 were injured in a period of five years, a report by Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) on the status of illegal mining and accidents shows.

“Accidents happen in both licensed and non-licensed mines and quarries and lead to loss of life and injuries for many people,” it stated.

According to the report, 337 mine accidents were recorded from July 2018 to 2022.

Of these, the report shows, 252 accidents happened in mines owned by companies that were legally operating while 85 accidents happened in sites owned by companies that were operating illegally.

The accidents that happened in mines owned legally operating were caused by different factors.

For instance, in 2019, only 40 percent of mining firms complied with mining standards.

That means firms failed to comply with safety and health standards, waste management, modern mining operations, environment protection, processing, infrastructures, community relations, and others.

Mine accidents killed 60 in 2018, 84 in 2019, 71 in 2020, 61 in 2021, and 61 in 2022.

“Data collection started in July 2018 when we deployed RMB mineral field officers at the district level throughout all the districts in the country. The contribution of illegal mining to accidents varies from time to time,” the mining board told The New Times.

It says that currently 109 areas across the country have been identified for illegal mining.

In Rwanda, there are 95 companies with 132 licenses doing legal mining, the information shared by the board indicates.

Of these, 20 are large-scale mining licenses, 71 are medium-scale mining licenses and 41 are small-scale mining licenses.

Measures to crack down on illegal mining

Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) said that investigating and prosecuting suspected operators will help crack down on illegal mining.

It has also pledged to explore the potential of the 109 areas with illegal mining and demarcate them for licensing.

“Stakeholders’ engagement such as local leaders, security organs and mining communities to play their roles in fighting and preventing illegal mining,” a note on the status of illegal mining and accidents said.

The Government targets $1.5 billion in annual revenues from mineral exports by 2024.

However, at least 50 per cent of minerals disappear due to artisanal mining and lack of modern techniques.

The mining board has encouraged mining operators to embrace value addition to cushion the industry against price fluctuation and stabilize the country’s export revenues.

In 2019, before the Covid-19 outbreak, the mining sector employed about 71,205 workers, an increase from 47, 727 workers in 2017, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).