Rwanda?s mineral ores produced in the country are exported as 100 per cent mineral concentrates. With the smelting plant taking shape, it will be possible to export semi-processed tin, whose market value is higher than the unprocessed cassiterite.
Speaking to journalists during the launch of the plant, Evode Imena, the minister of state in charge of minerals, said with the new plant going into operation, the country is expecting a value increment of around 30-40 per cent
Rwanda?s cassiterite production stands at 450-500 tonnes per month, while the entire mining industry stands at 12,000 tonnes annually.
?Although there has been a fall in the market prices, we forecast an increment because of this new smelter.
Initially we were exporting cassiterite and had to pay for treatment charges, which stood at $1,500 per tonne, but this time we no longer need to spend that much. As government we are ensuring quality and sustainability of this smelting business,? he said.
With Phoenix Metals, with a monthly turnover of $1.5 million annually, projects increased revenues from mineral exports after value addition.
For almost 10 years, the plant had suspended tin smelting due to low and unreliable power supply to the plant.
Without constant power, the smelted tin ore would get spoilt, but plant owners say they have since acquired enough power to run the plant.
The plant became operational six months after the mining law came into force, and, according to Imena, mining regulations will be published sometime next month highlighting the standards needed in the industry.
The regulations, which will be announced under a Ministerial Order, will have three categories; artisanal, small and the large scale miners.
Rwanda has been working on being the first country in Africa to have a conflict-free smelter and Imena said government has been providing assistance to Phoenix Metals to be certified.
?We started engaging organisations that issue such certificates in 2013, and they started conducting pre-auditing of Phoenix Metals, around mid last year, we were informed that we would join the process of acquiring a certificate,? said Imena.
?The company was later allowed to join the process as it waited for the certificate, however, there was a challenge of clients who refused to buy tin on grounds that we did not have the certificate. This was a big problem.?
Conflict-free smelter initiative gave the company a temporary letter allowing them to sell with a grace-period of six months, according to the minister, by mid this year, Phoenix Metals may be certified.
The smelter has two furnaces with each having a capacity of smelting 300 tonnes per month.
Currently, the plant management say they are going to work for 10 days non-stop as they test the maximum capacity of the plant.
When The New Times visited the plant, yesterday, it was conducting a test on 90 tonnes of cassiterite that was to produce 50 to 70 tonnes of tin.
According to its the chief executive, Raphael Ritter De Zahony, the process of getting certified goes through a series of evaluations with some done on the national level.
?We don?t have power of some evaluation processes but we are confident Rwanda is doing well. I must succeed, I can?t fail. Every day I must comply with the systems and ensure there is no risk and everything is done in a transparent manner,? he said
With regards to how Rwanda?s mining sector is performing, De Zahony said: ?We are seeing more people picking interest in mining, and the capacity of those already in the sector is increasing in terms of finance, skills and technology?.
Rwanda?s revenue projections from mining this year stands at $293.2 million, with a volume capacity of 17,161 tonnes of minerals.
In 2013, the country managed to surpass its target of $$226.5 million but 2014 was a setback. Statistics for January to November show that the country generated only $194.5 million due to the fall of prices on the international market, despite exceeding volume target with 17,100 tonnes more than the projected 14,720 tonnes.
Edwin Musoni, The New Times