The Rwandan government has announced that it will send back 70 tonnes of untagged minerals smuggled into the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The local New Times newspaper quoted Dr Michael Biryabarema, the Director General for Mines and Geology in the Ministry of Natural Resources, saying the handover date was yet to be determined by the relevant ministers from both countries. “We no longer export untagged minerals. So, any minerals that come into Rwanda without a tag are impounded and taken back to the country of origin,” Biryabarema said.

The minerals were seized by the Revenue Protection Department’s anti-smuggling unit as they were brought into the country from DRC, through the western corridors of Rusizi and Rubavu, over the last five months, Biryabarema said. They include cassiterite and wolframite, tungsten and tantalum, he added. Between March and September this year, 91 tonnes of smuggled minerals have been impounded, 55 tonnes in Rubavu district, 27 tonnes in Rusizi and 9 tonnes in Kigali. The 70 tonnes to be sent back to DRC are part of the total impounded. The Ministry of Mines is in the process of identifying the origin of the remaining minerals.

The tagging of minerals carried out in Rwanda since the start of this year is part of the iTSCi traceability scheme aimed at curbing illegal trading of “conflict minerals”. The government says that 98% of minerals produced are now being tagged.