Rwanda: Tougher Penalties Await Errant Miners in Proposed Mining Bill

The Government of Rwanda seeks to propose tougher penalties under…


The Government of Rwanda seeks to propose tougher penalties under a new draft law on mining and quarry operations to deter offences that include illegal mining and mineral trading. For the last six years, mining and quarry activities were governed by a related law of 2018.

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According to an explanatory note of the bill, while the existing law has helped build a more productive and professional sector that contributes to the country’s economic development, serious gaps were identified during its implementation, and addressing them required its amendment.

The Minister in the Office of the President, Judith Uwizeye, explained the relevance of the bill to lawmakers on May 15, saying that the main grounds for amending the law were current lenient punishments that were not discouraging offenders.

The expletory note of the bill points out that the law in force provides lenient punishments to persons involved in mining activities without licenses, to persons who have mining licenses but do not comply with health and safety standards for mining and quarry operations, and to persons who import, export, manufacture, use, transport, trade in dynamites in mining or quarry operations without permits.

“The punishments in the law were so lenient that people who were committing offences and faults in this sector [mining and quarry] did not fear them because they were not deterring compared to the value of the gains they get in this sector, or what they could generate in case they have committed the offences or faults,” Uwizeye said.

“Penalties were increased to deter those who commit offences or faults in this sector of mining and quarry,” she said.

Offences and penalties

Undertaking mining operations without a licence

A person who undertakes mineral operations without a licence, commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years but not more than five years, and a fine of not less than Rwf25 million, but not more than Rwf50 million, or one of these penalties.

If an entity convicted of this offence is a company, organisation, institution, cooperative, association, or a group of associations with legal personality, it is liable to a fine of not less than Rwf60 million but not more than Rwf80 million or dissolution.

Again, under the existing law, no specific penalty was provided for the case of a company that commits the offence in question.

Possessing illegally extracted minerals to be punished by up to a five-year jail term and Rwf60 million

A person who possesses illegally extracted minerals commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years but not more than five years, and a fine of not less than Rwf30 million, but not more than Rwf60 million, or one of these penalties.

This is a new provision being introduced by the bill.

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Trading in illegally extracted minerals to attract up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to Rwf120 million

The draft law provides specific punishments for persons involved in the trade of minerals mined illegally. This amendment intends to discourage rampant activities of trade in minerals by persons without required licenses, indicates the explanatory note of the bill.

As per the bill, a person who trades in illegally extracted minerals commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of more than five years but not more than 10 years, and a fine of not less than Rwf60 million, but not more than Rwf120 million, or one of these penalties.

This offence was not provided for in the current law.

“We had a major challenge where you realised that people were seeking mining licences, but they set up shops at trading centres so that they buy from other people who extracted minerals – either through illegal or legal ways. As a result, you find that many people whom we granted licences are dealing in illegal mining and quarry operations because there is someone who is buying [minerals] from them,” Uwizeye said.

“Here, we introduced penalties for people who purchase illegally extracted minerals and quarry products,” she observed.

You face up to two years in jail, Rwf50 million in fine for allowing illegal mining activity on your land

A person who allows mining activity on his or her land to a person without a license commits an offence. Upon conviction, he or she is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but not more than two years, and a fine of not less than Rwf25 million, but not more than Rwf50 million, or one of these penalties.

Faults and sanctions relating to mining operations

The draft law also provides tougher administrative fines relating to faults such as displacement, destruction, removal, or crossing the demarcation features of the mineral or quarry license area, as well as faults committed by persons with mining licenses who do not rehabilitate damaged areas.

Again, some of the offences in the current law were made administrative faults to allow inspectors of mining and quarry activities to impose such sanctions if someone is found to have committed them.

This will allow inspectors to work efficiently and resolve issues identified during their inspections without going through the courts first.

“In fact, inspectors were as if they had no powers,” Uwizeye said, pointing out that lengthy court proceedings were hindering inspection in mining and quarry.