Rwanda and its neighbors are convening in Kigali this week to set up a platform where officials hope to convince the world that minerals coming from this region are legitimate.
The East and Central Africa Mining Forum takes place October 28-29. Up to 600 delegates are expected to attend from at least 40 countries including Tanzania, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and DR Congo – whose minerals are said to be exported by its neighbors.
“What we aim to do as government, is to make sure that mining companies in Rwanda have close working relationship with mining companies in the region for a number of reasons,” said Francis Gatare, CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) at press conference Saturday evening.
“One critical one is for formalizing trade in minerals, to make sure that we get rid of the 10 years stigma of smuggled minerals and so called conflict minerals in this region. And our objective is that during this conference we will be building bridges that create formalized, legalized, proper trade in minerals.”
Last year, at least $350m was generated from minerals into Rwanda’s economy. However, nearly all the mining companies are small operations with no global recognition.
For years, since Rwanda got involved in the wars in DR Congo, it stands accused of controlling mining sites, then smuggling the minerals as its own. Despite another mechanism that puts tags on minerals to show their original mine, that has done little to change global public perception on Rwanda.
Meanwhile, Kigali also hopes to use this week’s forum to mobilise financing for local mining industry. The local banking industry is said to be adamant to put their money in the sector due to the high risk involved.
Gatare said: “When you don’t have enough money you can’t do an exploration research of new minerals. Mineral research is so expansive it requires a lot of money, that is why it is not easy to do a research based on bank loan, because there is more risks. Sometimes you find more minerals within your exploration site [or you even] find nothing that’s why banks can’t invest in such projects.”