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 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
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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs