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Rwanda new policy compels mining firms to restore degraded land

Rwanda mining firms, which have been evading the responsibility to rehabilitate land degraded by their mining activities, will no longer be able to get away with it following the introduction of a new system of calculating rehabilitation expenses.

Donat Nsengumuremyi, the Director of Mineral Extraction and Processing at Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, told The New Times that, initially, mining operators had to inject money in Rwanda Environment Fund (FONERWA) as guarantee fee that  the Government could spend in rehabilitating areas degraded by mining companies.

However, he explained that the operators intentionally undervalue the real cost of rehabilitation.

And whenever the operators would abandon their mining operations or complete their projects and disappear, government was facing shortage of funds to restore the site.

Statistics show that there are over 3,000 mining sites across the country.

With degraded land due to mining activities, consequences such as erosion, flooding, loss of biodiversity were escalating.

To avert the operators’ trickery, the official said that a new tool dubbed “Environment Bond Calculator” whose guidelines were issued in August this year has been developed to calculate the real cost needed for the rehabilitation.

The operators will have to deposit the bond to FONERWA determining the real cost planned for the rehabilitation.

“Normally, operators are supposed to restore the degraded areas and then after restoration, FONERWA gives back the money to them.

“But because they know they might spend a lot of money on rehabilitation, they undervalue the cost and eventually disappear, leaving the burden to the Government,” he explained.

To solve the problem, before commencing mining activities, mining operators must show Environment Impact Assessment for their projects.

“This shows an Environment Management Plan that indicates how they will restore the degraded land with an attached real cost calculated by the ‘newly developed Bond Calculator ’, he explained.

“We have already developed a bond calculator tool that will enable RDB which normally approves the projects to check if the rehabilitation cost has been well calculated. The bond calculator automatically generates the real cost considering all activities in the project.”

Nsengumuremyi said that the operators will deposit a fraction of the cost to FONERWA and a big part of it has to be guaranteed by the bank that can agree to work with the mining operator.

“We became flexible so that the operators can still use their money in their business instead of having their money lie idle in FONERWA but they must show us a bank that will serve as a guarantor for them in case they fail to rehabilitate degraded sites,” he said.

The official said that mining operators will have also to contribute non-refundable 10 per cent of the investment to government coffers, known as legacy conservation fees, for sustainable environment conservation.

He added inspection in mining sector will be strengthened to ensure that progressive rehabilitation is also complied with.

“After completing mining activities, the degraded part should be immediately rehabilitated,” he said.

Remy Duhuze, the Director of Environmental Regulations & Pollution Control at Rwanda Environment Management Authority said that if mining is not carried out in a sustainable way, it could trim of all forests and other biodiversity species.

He said that there is also need to use latest technologies in mining but also ensures that mining activities are environmental friendly.

“We will continue to partner with mining board and mining association for capacity building in environmental friendly practices. We have to promote mining but also environmental protection.  There is a strategic environment assessment for mining sector,” he said.

Artisanal mining is still a challenge in the development of the sector.

Francis Gatare, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, urged graduates from Rwanda Mining and Geology school to embrace use of modern technology and boost minerals production.

The Board says over 50 per cent of the minerals is lost due to poor mining techniques.

The mining week, organised by the school and mining board, is reflecting on mining operations, and solutions to the challenges affecting the sector, and it will run up to December 13, by planting trees in abandoned mine sites in Kayonza District.

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