News / Africa

    Rwandan Mining Surges as Minerals Certified 'Conflict-Free'

    FILE - A general view shows a mineral processing plant in Gatumba, western Rwanda.
    FILE - A general view shows a mineral processing plant in Gatumba, western Rwanda.
    Nick Long
    Industries worldwide are taking a closer look at their supply chains for minerals exported from Africa's Great Lakes region.  They are worried they could be penalized for buying conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo that are labeled as other countries' production.  To counter those fears and build confidence among importers, Rwanda has started issuing regionally approved certificates for exports from its own mines.
     
    A large delegation of mining experts, journalists and others visited the Rutongo tin mine in central Rwanda this month and were greeted with a song of welcome from miners and other employees.
     
    The message of the song is that industrial mining has improved people’s lives in this area and that the products exported from here are not conflict minerals.
     
    Rutongo is the first mine in Rwanda where mineral exports have been given "conflict-free" certificates by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, a body representing 11 countries including Rwanda and the DRC.
     
    It is one of Rwanda’s largest tin mines with nearly 42 kilometers of tunnels.
     
    Rutongo is the first mine in Rwanda where mineral exports have been given "conflict-free" certificates. (Nicholas Long for VOA).Rutongo is the first mine in Rwanda where mineral exports have been given "conflict-free" certificates. (Nicholas Long for VOA).
    x
    Rutongo is the first mine in Rwanda where mineral exports have been given "conflict-free" certificates. (Nicholas Long for VOA).
    Rutongo is the first mine in Rwanda where mineral exports have been given "conflict-free" certificates. (Nicholas Long for VOA).

    Companies like Rutongo Mines Ltd do not want to fall afoul of U.S. legislation, part of the Dodd-Frank Act, that could penalize buyers of minerals from this region unless the products can be shown to be conflict-free.
     
    Taking matters seriously
     
    Martin Kahanovitz, chief executive officer of Rutongo Mines Ltd., says he is taking the risks seriously.
     
    "I mean we are putting in millions and millions of dollars. Are we going to start [trafficking] conflict minerals and contaminated minerals?  There’s no chance.  We’ll lose everything, and on top of that, as far as the people are concerned, you know the people have got everything to lose and they understand that," says Kahanovitz.
     
    To guard against conflict minerals being smuggled into the supply chain from the mine, Rutongo Mines works with a body called ITSCI, an organization set up by the tin industry, which was asked by Rwanda's government to install a tagging system at all of the country’s mines.
     
    Kahanovitz explains that the system means each tag can be traced to a miner.  
     
    "You can pick any tag number and when you go to the top I’ll trace it back to the miner.  There’s a lots of paperwork that goes on here between ITSCI and our mineral supervisor and on top of it once they come and take the minerals at night in our truck with our security and with ITSCI, we lock the material up at the top and the next morning we then reconcile everything to make sure the weights are the same," says Kahanovitz.
     
    Between 2008 and 2012, Rwanda’s exports of minerals grew at a rate of 44 percent per year. Some experts have questioned whether all of the minerals come from the country's own mines.  But the head of Rwanda’s mining association, Jean Marie Kalima, says it’s an indication of how fast mining is developing here. 
     
    He says just after the Dodd-Frank Act became law, everyone started developing mines, so that today in Rwanda the mines have multiplied and more than 500 mining licenses have been issued.
     
    Increasing transparency
     
    The U.S.-based Enough Project, which campaigns for responsible mineral sourcing, agrees that mining is booming here.  Sasha Lezhnev is the campaign coordinator.
     
    "I’m very impressed that Rwanda together with private investors have started developing several of their mines, and the reason we’re impressed by this is because for so many years minerals and mines in this region were in a situation of opacity where everything was done under cover.  Now we’re seeing much more sunshine on the process.  There are no children working in the large scale mines and there’s better traceability about where the minerals are coming from," said Lezhnev.

    Lezhnev also noted that the tagging system has uncovered much more of Rwanda’s own production.  But he believes countries in the region need to do more to reassure buyers, in particular by appointing an independent auditor for the ICGLR certification system.
     
    "Rwanda, Congo, the ICGLR and the rest of the region really need to speed up this certification process which can guarantee conflict minerals from the Great Lakes region for the first time ever.  If they do not speed up this process to finalize all the parts of the ICGLR certification, then companies will stop buying eventually because they won’t have confidence in the process," said Lezhnev.
     
    The secretary general of the ICGLR, Congo's Ntumba Luaba, was part of the delegation visiting Rutongo this month.  He told VOA there’s nothing holding up the ICGLR’s certification process, the studies are already well advanced, and they are in the process of recruiting an independent auditor, which will require a lot of funds.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ann Garrison
    November 28, 2013 6:49 AM
    Guess this is what Ben Affleck had in mind when he went to Rwanda "to explore investment opportunities for future business engagements" in 2007. And then toured college campuses with John Kerry and John Prendergast, on behalf of the conflict free minerals fraud.

    by: Safari from: kampala/uganda
    November 28, 2013 1:58 AM
    VOA, this report is verry wrong, don't lying to people up to that, level... I'm Rwandese and born in rwanda, but they hv never told us that our coutry
    Had, minerals such cassiterite,coltana etc... We knew and knowing that we have coffee in rwanda.
    People their dying each and every day because of this, our govermnt is an selfish govermrnt, who
    Stand in blood of millions of people dying in conflict of minerals in Congo, I reapet and confirm in Rwanda we don't have minerals those their from south kivu in DRC.
    In Response

    by: SMan from: RSA
    November 29, 2013 12:06 AM
    Anything coming out of or to do with Rwanda should be scrutinized under a microscope. It is coming increasingly clear that the Rwanda Gov is not as transparent, upstanding and corruption free as it claims to be.
    In Response

    by: Ann Garrison
    November 28, 2013 7:15 AM
    Indeed. Glad to see a Rwandan stepping up to tell you this. Nick Long, I have been admiring your reporting from afar, so I'm sorry to see you involved in this.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora