Gatumba Mining Company et l'exploitation du coltan au Rwanda
Venture aims to step up coltan mining in Rwanda
By Hereward Holland
KIGALI (Reuters) - A joint venture between the Rwandan government and a Mauritius-based company is positioning the central African country to ramp up exploitation of coltan, a mineral that is crucial to the manufacture of mobile phones.
Gatumba Mining Concessions (GMC) will invest at least $2.5 million and build ten small processing plants over five years in a major step towards expanding Rwanda's nascent mining sector, which has been dominated by small-scale artisanal mining.
GMC Chairman Bruce Stride said the firm was also considering constructing a couple of "medium-sized" open pit mines, which would also produce tin ore and other minerals, if the international price for coltan improved in the coming months.
"Over the next five years we are targeting building ten plants, each with a monthly turnover of around $60,000 ... of which roughly $25,000 will be profit," Stride told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
PRICE RISE AWAITED
He said international coltan prices needed to approach $60 per pound -- up from around $38 per pound now -- for the proposed medium-sized mines to be economically viable. He said he expected that the price rise was "imminent".
Coltan, short for columbium-tantalum, is the ore which yields tantalum, a corrosion resistant metal that is critical for the production of microelectronic capacitors needed for the manufacture of cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and other electronic devices.
Coltan is mined across the border in Democratic Republic of Congo, where its extraction has often been linked to conflict and extreme human rights violations.
GMC is a joint venture between Kigali and Mauritius-based Kivu Resources, which owns an 81 percent stake of the 35-year lease through subsidiary Gatumba Mining Rwanda Holdings.
A new pilot plant on the 20,800 hectare (51,400 acre) concession already produces 700 grams of tantalum and tin ore per tonne of material extracted, twice the volume per tonne forecast by the firm's geologists in a recently concluded study, Stride said.
"The company's main aim in this geological survey was to find one or two spots where we could put big, what you'd call internationally medium-size mines, for mining tantalum, tin, niobium and some wolframite too," he said.
"We will be concentrating on these (small scale) operations until the prices of the commodities and the metals prices improve a little bit and make those larger mines viable."
The commodity price crash brought on by the global slump earlier this year means Rwanda will earn around $75 million from mining in 2009, down from $91.3 million the previous year.
The government passed a new law in May that aims to simplify mineral taxation and make the system more flexible and responsive to commodity price fluctuations, Natural Resources Minister Vincent Karega told Reuters.
The legislation, which is awaiting an implementation order by the cabinet, also introduces a new royalties tax, Karega said, although he did not give details of the rate.
"We need to facilitate investment, we need to make it profitable and also to ensure it contributes to the country's economy in a manner that is fair. It should be flexible to adjust to different volatility on world markets," Karega said.
GMC's Stride said the new law was more user-friendly and that the proposed tax system was fairer and more transparent.
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