Coltan processing plant based in Rwanda to be inaugurated in the near future

By Zaninka Umutesi
On 21 December 2022 at 08:03

Rwanda has got a plant expected to be the first in Africa processing Coltan minerals to produce Tantalum and Niobium powders used to make various things, especially electronic devices.

The plant located in Bugesera Industrial Park was built by a mining investment company known as Power Resources International Ltd.

This British-based mining company operates mainly in the Ngororero District in the areas of Muriro and Rukaragata.

In 2018, Power Resources International Ltd signed an agreement with the Government of Rwanda to build a factory that will process Coltan to add value to it before being placed on the international market.

Sources indicate that the plant has been completed where it is under a pilot phase before official inauguration.

The plant completed at the tune of more than US$20 million, will have the capacity to process 120 tonnes of Coltan per month.

As he launched a week dedicated to mining recently on 5th December 2022, the CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), Amb Yamina Karitanyi, said that all expended efforts are meant to increase revenues the country generates from mining.

She went on to say that this Coltan processing plant joins other facilities including gold and cassiterite refineries.

“The value addition of precious stones has been strengthened to increase revenues from minerals’ exports. Rwanda has a gold refinery, cassiterite processing plant, and a coltan processing plant to be inaugurated in the near future,” disclosed Amb. Karitanyi.

Normally, plants based in Africa process Coltan into a powder known as Spiral Concentrate, which is then exported to Europe and Asia to extract the final powders of Tantalum and Niobium.

Tantalum is widely used in the manufacturing of motherboards for electronic devices such as computers, televisions, radios, and telephones. Niobium is used while making aircraft engines and medical equipment including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Benefits to the region

The Deputy CEO of RMB, Dr. Ivan Twagirashema, said that this factory also benefits the entire region which produces more than 70% of the Coltan needed globally.

He assured that Rwanda has a large amount of Coltan noting that there should be no worries of running short of supply as the plant can also process minerals brought from other countries.

"In the last two or three years, Rwanda was among the top five exporters of Coltan globally. When we look at the production here alone, I think it is enough for the plant but it is designed in a way that facilitates expansion,” he said.

This means, other African countries can send their Coltan to be processed in Rwanda instead of being overwhelmed with much expenses on transport to other continents.

The 2020 report from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) indicated that the country fetched over US$1.4 billion from minerals exported in five years from 2015 to 2019.

In 2015, Rwanda generated US$149 million from exported minerals including coltan, wolfram and others.

In the following years, Rwanda generated US$166, 5 million and US$373 million respectively.

As she attended the launch of Mining Week in Rwanda recently, Amb. Karitanyi said that Rwanda generated US$733 million in 2020 from minerals’ exports up from US$373 of 2017.

In 2021, revenues dropped to US$516 million owing to reduced prices on the international market.

Amb. Karitanyi said that the year 2022 is promising in consideration of the US$585 generated in the first nine months.

She attributed the increase in revenues to Rwanda’s initiative to establish plants adding value to minerals before exportation.

The mining sector in Rwanda currently employs 46,000 people with a target to increase the number to more than 100,000 by 2024.

Mining is the second largest export sector in the Rwandan economy after Tourism.