Rulindo: Police uncover tunnels in houses used to steal minerals

On 2 April 2024 at 01:03

Rwanda National Police (RNP) has uncovered underground tunnels in two residential houses located in Gasenga village, Kivugiza cell of Masoro sector in Rulindo District, which were being used by illegal miners to steal cassiterite mineral from the nearby concession.

Nine people were arrested during the operations conducted on Saturday, March 30. Police are also still searching for two owners of the two houses said to be the ringleaders, who fled during the operation.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Jean Bosco Mwiseneza, the Northern Region Police spokesperson, said that the tunnels, stretching for about 200 metres, were connecting the two houses to a nearby Mahaza stream where they were mining and stealing cassiterite minerals.

At about 5p.m, SP Mwiseneza said, Police went to the two houses as part of the ongoing operations to fight illegal mining and mineral trade.

"Police officers found a tunnel in each of the two neighbouring houses covered with iron bars and a mat, crossing the road to Mahaza stream, about 200 metres from the houses.

All the nine suspects were found in the two houses, some of them had just returned back from mining through the same dangerous tunnels," SP Mwiseneza said.

Police also seized from the suspects, some quantities of cassiterite mineral, different traditional tools such as iron bars, spade, hummers, weighing scales, helmets; and 15kgs of honey, which they were taking while mining.

"These activities are not only illegal but they are also dangerous with high fatal risks," said the spokesperson.

Five of the suspects, who had entered the tunnel earlier at about 04a.m, got stuck inside due to lack of enough oxygen, but were rescued by their colleagues at about 3p.m.

The arrest came few days after similar operations in Rutongo and Musha mining concessions in Rulindo and Rwamagana districts, respectively, where 48 people (37 mineral thieves and 11 illegal mineral traders) were arrested.

Article 54 of the law No. 58/2018 of 13/08/2018 on mining and quarry operations, states that; any person, who undertakes mineral or quarry exploration, exploitation, processing or trading without a licence, commits an offence.

Upon conviction, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term of between two and six months and a fine of not less than Rwf1 million and not more than Rwf5 million or only one of these penalties.