Bloomberg News

Rwanda Mining Companies to Boost Tin Exports Amid Record Prices

June 30, 2011

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Tin producers in Rwanda including Rutongo Mines Ltd., the country’s biggest miner of the tin ore cassiterite, plan to boost exports as the East African nation seeks to gain from record prices for the metal, officials said.

Rutongo expects to double shipments to 200 metric tons a month by the end of 2012 from 100 tons currently, Michael Biryabarema, general director of the Rwanda Geology and Mines Authority said in a phone interview on June 28. The company, a joint venture between Rwanda’s government and Switzerland-based Ruddington Services AG, has increased exports from 3 tons a month three years ago, he said.

“They projected by the end of next year they would be at 200 tons,” Biryabarema said. “From their output, you cannot doubt their projections,” he said, without providing current production data.

Rwanda is boosting revenue from mining as the nation rebuilds its economy that was decimated by a genocide in 1994 in which at least 800,000 people died. The country, which earns most of its foreign exchange from tourism and coffee exports, doubled the size of its economy in the nine years to 2010, according to the World Bank.

Three-month delivery tin rose 0.2 percent to $25,900 a ton at 12:44 p.m. on the London Metal Exchange. The metal, which traded at a record $33,600 a ton on April 11, has gained 49 percent over the past 12 months. Tin may trade at $23,000 to $27,000 a metric ton in the second half of this year as demand from Japan remains weak after an earthquake and tsunami in March, according to PT Timah, the world’s biggest exporter.

Tungsten Exports

Wolfram Mining & Processing Ltd., a Kigali-based miner of cassiterite and wolframite, also known as tungsten, plans to boost its shipments of both metals to as much as 65 tons a month before the end of this year, from 36 tons this month, said Jean- Malic Kalima, a director at the company. Wolfram is owned by private investors in Rwanda, Austria and Switzerland, Kalima said, without providing more details.

Tin is used in electrical solder and to coat steel, while tungsten is used in light bulbs.

Rwandan exports of minerals more than doubled to $50.1 million in the five months through May, from $20.7 million in the same period the year earlier, according to the Natural Resources Ministry. Volumes grew to 2,775 tons from 1,917 tons in 2009, the ministry said in a document handed to Bloomberg.

Mineral Exports

Rwanda’s annual exports of cassiterite, wolframite and coltan, an ore containing tantalum which is used in mobile phones and video-game consoles, may climb to $256 million by 2015 from $96.4 million as companies boost production, Natural Resources Minister Stanislas Kamanzi said in an interview on June 23.

“It’s clear that the reserves are there and the business is good,” he said.

About 92 percent of Rwanda’s mines have installed traceability systems as of April 1 in accordance with the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act that is intended to curb the trade of minerals that fund conflict, Kamanzi said. The industry employs 35,000 people in the country, he said.

Rwanda’s government is looking to address obstacles faced by mining companies to increase investment, including the high cost of electricity, Kamanzi said. Rwanda produces 95 megawatts of power, which is enough for 14 percent of the population, according to the Infrastructure Ministry. The government is currently seeking investors for projects that may increase output to 1,000 megawatts before 2018.

“There is an urgent need for electricity,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame told reporters in Kigali on June 23. “One hundred megawatts is not enough. We want more.”

Rwanda borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa’s biggest tin producer.

--Editors: Paul Richardson, Vernon Wessels, Antony Sguazzin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Murdock in Kigali via Nairobi at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.


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