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).
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

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs