Africa-Press – Rwanda. The mining sector has oftentimes been called on to take measures in protecting the environment and rehabilitating mining sites given their different activities of extracting and processing ores. The New Times’ Alice Kagina had an interview with Jean Malic Kalima, Chairman of Rwanda Mining Association, to discuss challenges hindering good practices in the sector towards environmental protection and solutions in place to address them.
Below are excerpts.
We have seen cases where the mining sector comes among top polluters. What challenges are hindering environmental protection in the sector?
Mining is a new sector in the country that is still developing and we are trying to streamline the sector. We came to understand that we have to be friendly and work in a good environment, unfortunately, we are facing the challenge of illegal miners.
In most cases where there are gaps of not respecting the environmental standards, it is mostly those who are working with no license and we are taking measures to address it.
It is easier to make a follow-up when you know the owner of a certain mine and the government can help us identify those parts which are illegal to mine in where these unlicensed miners end up into.
What are you doing to sensitize concerned parties and the public to stop the environmental degradation?
It is said that mining is not an environmentally friendly activity and it is sometimes true. To mine, you have to dig and reshape nature’s setup because of the traditional methods we use but things are different in countries that use advanced machinery and technologies.
We started a kind of advocacy that involves approaching different players and the sensibilisation is at a very good level of appreciation.
We also made a high recommendation to miners to have at least one environmental engineer in each mine to help them make a plan for environmental protection strategy.
We are lucky to have students graduating from mining studies and we are trying to get them on board with their participation, we will progress in that line.
How do you ensure miners comply with the appropriate mining standards?
There is an agreement that every miner has to sign after getting a license to operate followed by a time set to be inspected regularly.
We are working within that schedule where we are called by the mining board to explain where we are in terms of adhering to standards.
In the beginning, miners had fear of inspections thinking it was only about getting fined but it is more of advocacy than punishment.
Can you share some good practices that owners of mining concessions can deploy to safeguard the environment?
We have to see how we can mine in a proper way by having a proper plan led by a certain expert, be it mining engineers, geologists or environmentalists. Once you have those three on board, you can make a really good mining plan without any hazards.
And, with young educated individuals in the field, we are now seeing improvements in that area.
We also have to work together with other sectors whose activities are carried out on the ground such as the agriculture sector and construction, so that we may have consolidated efforts to protect and rehabilitate the environment.