Belgium has digitised and returned the data and research on geology and mining obtained during the colonial era in Rwanda to the Rwandan government. The 16TB files, which were being stored at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, are very important when it comes to identifying areas where mineral explorations were conducted during the era.
According to Francis Gatare the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum & Gas Board (RMB), the move will boost Rwanda’s mineral exploration efforts. “”We signed an agreement in 2008 for the files transfer and it has taken over a year to digitize the files. They are very useful because professional mining requires to know location of mineral deposits and their quantities. This will therefore back exploration which government has embarked on to discover and know the status of minerals we have in Rwanda, their location and quantities,” he said. He further added that the data will facilitate Rwanda’s search for new mineral prospects.
Also speaking at the handover, Belgian ambassador to Rwanda, Benoît Ryelandt, said the handover of new archives is part of the pledge made by Belgian authorities to return all the Rwandan cultural heritage in general and to give Rwandan authorities access to the archives on their country.
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Professionalising the sector
Mining in Rwanda started in 1934 in Rutongo, meaning the country’s colonial masters, Belgium, have kept geology and mining data for 86 years. Studies have indicated that Rwamagana, Nyanza and Muhanga have the potential for lithium metal deposits. Lithium is used as raw materials to produce remote car locks, a watch, camera, laser pointer, MP3 players, hearing aids, calculators or encountered thermometers, battery backup systems in computers, remote control toys as well as bleaching and sanitation products, agrochemicals, aluminium alloys, cement and concrete additives, dyes and pigments, and pharmaceuticals.
Rwanda is keen on diversifying mineral exports to shore-up foreign exchange revenues and bridge the trade deficit. According to Mr. Gatare, the country plans to train more than 500 experts in the mining sector over the next 5 years as part of the efforts to professionalise the sector. “We have prospects for new minerals in Rwanda. We are also looking at adding value to the discovered minerals instead of exporting them in their raw form and this will increase jobs to locals,” he affirmed.
Among the newly explored minerals include gemstones, copper, cobalt, nickel, iron, lithium and other rare earth minerals.