World Environment Day: Mining firms on the spot for environmental degradation

By Michel Nkurunziza

Published : June 05, 2022

As the world celebrates World Environment Day, on June 5, Rwanda Environment Management Authority has obliged mining companies to comply with environment protection across the country.

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Juliet Kabera, The Director General of REMA said that the call follows a recent inspection which detected that mining firms are not rehabilitating mining sites after mineral extraction.

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

“We have been conducting different inspections in the mining sector. Here we partnered with Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board. Uniquely, we had the environment professional experts in the inspections. This is because we cannot achieve the sustainable mining that we need if all of us do not work together,” she said.

She said that the activity was closed on June 2, 2022 after a number of days of inspections, adding that mining firms should embrace practices to ensure sustainable mining.

The activity aimed to raise awareness on implementation of Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMPs) in the mining sector.

According to Rwanda Mines Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), in 2018, only 23 percent of mining firms were complying with mining standards and 40 per cent in 2019.

That means that firms failed to comply with safety and health standards, waste management, modern mining operations, environment protection, processing, infrastructures, community relations and others.

 At least 50 per cent of minerals disappear due to artisanal mining and with modern techniques; The Government targets $1.5 billion in annual revenues from mineral exports by 2024.

New policy compels mining firms to restore degraded land

Recently, the mining board told The New Times that 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.

Initially, mining operators had to inject money in Rwanda Environment Fund (FONERWA) as a guarantee fee that the Government could spend in rehabilitating areas degraded by mining companies.

However, officials 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, the government was facing shortage of funds to restore the site.

To avert the operators’ trickery, RMB said that a new tool dubbed “Environment Bond Calculator,” whose guidelines were issued recently 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.

To solve the problem, before commencing mining activities, mining operators must show an 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. ’

The developed bond calculator tool 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.

Mining operators will have to 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 them.

World Environment Day is celebrated annually, to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

SOURCE: https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/world-environment-day-mining-firms-spot-environmental-degradation

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