Mining in Rwanda “’
uncertain future
 
Kigali, Rwanda — MININGREVIEW.COM — 24 February 2011 – U.S. rules aimed at stopping mineral sales from funding war in central Africa, and signed into law by President Barack Obama, will amount to a trade embargo on the region unless nations get more time to adapt, according to a senior Rwandan official.

Guidelines for mineral smelters set by Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) grouping companies, including Apple, IBM, and Intel, become effective on 1 April after the new U.S. law required companies to confirm that their purchases of gold, coltan, tungsten and tin ore from 10 African countries aren’t funding armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“It was not the intention of the U.S. government to impose a trade embargo, but unfortunately this may be the outcome if we don’t come to a workable solution,” said Michael Biryabarema, director of Rwanda’s Geology and Mines Authority, in a letter to the EICC that he e-mailed to Bloomberg News.

The DRC, economically exhausted from more than a decade of war, has failed to stamp out fighting in its mineral-rich eastern region bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Industry programmes to tag and trace coltan and tin from Congo and Rwanda began last year, as armed groups and some members of the Congolese army support themselves and buy arms through illicit sales of minerals.
 
Rwanda, producer of about 5% of the world’s coltan and 4% of its tungsten, has asked the EICC for at least another year to prepare before the guidelines go into effect.

“Rwanda’s mineral exporters have been informed by all the large buyers that they are unable to take untagged, untraceable material after the end of March,” Biryabarema wrote in the letter. “The reduction in purchases would affect 30 000 small miners and damage Rwanda’s mineral trade, which accounts for about 30% of the country’s exports,” he said.

The EICC is reviewing the letter, spokeswoman Wendy Dittmer said by e-mail.