"The most exciting project currently happening in the Rwandan mining sector is the transformation of the industry from an artisanal-mining dominated industry to a well-planned professional and mechanized industry."
Exclusive interview with Hon. Dr Vincent Biruta, Minister of Natural Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources of the Republic of Rwanda
1. Thank you for this opportunity Honourable Minister, what in your mind are the most exciting projects currently happening in the Rwandan mining sector?
The most exciting project currently happening in the Rwandan mining sector is the transformation of the industry from an artisanal-mining dominated industry to a well planned professional and mechanized industry. We have continuously seen new mineral discoveries for the last 10 years, the number of companies investing in the sector continues to increase, the focus today is on establishing a modern and investor friendly legal and regulatory framework which will enable us to add value to the minerals produced in Rwanda. Although it is commonly said that this sector is new to Rwanda, mining started in the 1920s; however, its revival started in 2006 when the Government introduced reforms in the sector starting with the privatization of all former government concessions. Since then, the output from mining activities has increased for more than 500% in terms of value and more than doubled in volume.
As the understanding of the Rwandan geology and mineral potential increases, the confidence of mineral explorers and mining companies grow and this is yielding better mines with more efficient and advanced technologies. Some of the important projects being developed or in the pipeline are smelting of tin, refining of tantalum, niobium and tungsten, establishment of various large- scale mines, initiation of green model mines and the development of gemstone cutting and polishing centers.
2. Where would you say are the great opportunities for investors?
Investment opportunities in the Rwanda mining industry reside in : the introduction of mechanized and professional mining and mineral processing technologies for 3Ts (Tin, Tungsten and Tantalum) and Gold, the development of large and small-scale mines in the delineated brown fields, value addition to metallic and industrial minerals, cutting and polishing of gemstones such as sapphire, ruby, emerald, tourmaline…etc, exploration works in identified green fields.
3. What in your opinion are the main challenges to this sector at the moment?
The main challenges to the mining sector are access to fund by mining companies, mineral processors and traders; limited capacity to cope with fluctuating mineral prices; the technical capacity of a large number of companies which is still at a low level; the availability of good quality and affordable mining equipment and technology; operating in an environment under threat of consequences of ‘conflict-minerals’ regulations which impacts the access to market for Rwanda’s minerals.
4. What incentives are in place to attract investors to this sector?
The following are some of the incentives applicable to the mining sector:
- mining/mineral processing/trading companies in Rwanda with an investment certificate get a preferential corporate income tax of 15 % (normal rate is 30%) if they export at least 50 % of turnover of processed mineral ores;
- Mining or mineral processing companies in Rwanda that invest at least 50,000,000 US dollars with 30% equity, are not paying corporate income tax for 7 years;
- Mining equipments for the purpose of mining or mineral processing, mechanization are exempted from import duties
- Many more incentives are detailed in the law relating to Investment Promotion and Facilitation available at the Ministry Website www.minirena.gov.rw
5. What will be your message at this year’s iPAD Rwanda and what are you most looking forward to at the event?
My message to the delegates of this iPAD is that Rwanda is open for investment and that companies are the most welcome to invest in the mining sector. This is a high growing sector with great opportunities ranging from mining, mineral processing, refining, cutting and polishing and trading. In addition, Rwanda is well positioned in the African great lakes region in terms of investor-friendly legal framework, geographical location, infrastructure, financial systems all of which to support the mining industry development.
At the end of the event, we are expecting that participants will clearly understand the opportunities available in Rwandan mining sector; they will also have a change to meet and discuss with all stakeholders in sector, including various government officials and private sector actors.
The event is also a unique opportunity to pay a mine site visit to deeply understand the sector, how it works, the challenges and the opportunity it offers.
6. Anything you would like to add?
The Government of Rwanda is particularly promoting the development of the gemstone industry in the country. Rwanda has good quality precious and semi-precious gems such as sapphire, ruby, emerald, tourmaline (Red, Black and Green), amethyst, beryl, spodumene…etc. Welcome to the country of a thousand minerals. Therefore, there is a business opportunity in establishing cutting and polishing facilities for these minerals.