1 Legal and regulatory framework

1.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern mining in your jurisdiction?

Law 58/2018 of 13 August 2018 on Mining and Quarry Operations.

1.2 When was the mining legislation last reviewed?

The mining legislation was last reviewed in August 2018, through Law 13/2014 of 20 May 2014.

1.3 What other legislative and regulatory provisions have relevance for mining operations in your jurisdiction?

Other legislative and regulatory provisions of relevance for mining operations in Rwanda include the following:

  • Prime Minister's Order 079/03 of 26 July 2019 determining the structure and functioning of the committee in charge of assessment of application for licences and disputes related to mining and quarrying;
  • Ministerial Order 007.01 of 19 July 2019 repealing ministerial orders related to mining and quarry operations;
  • Ministerial Order 013 MOJ.AG.19 of 16 July 2019 determining the requirements for granting authorisation to import, manufacture, transport, trade in or use dynamite in mining and quarry operations;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 001 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the nature, amount and deposit of the environmental rehabilitation guarantee;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 002 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the provision of services relating to mining and quarry operations;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 003 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the content of mineral processing and trading licences and the modalities of their grant;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 004 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the format and content of a mineral licence and the content of an agreement with a mining or industrial quarry licence holder;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 005 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the potential mining area criteria for categorisation of mine modalities and the requirements for mineral licence application and for tenders;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 006 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the volume of mineral ore samples;
  • Regulation of the Chief Executive Officer 007 MINES.RMB.2019 of 18 July 2019 determining the categories of quarry requirements for the acquisition of quarry licences and reporting; and
  • Ministerial Order 004/Minifom/2010 of 14 September 2010 determining the modalities of environment conservation in mining and quarry operations.

1.4 Are there any regional treaties or laws that need to be taken into account?

  • Mineral traceability with the progressive rollout of the ITRI/iTSCi Tin Supply Chain Initiative.
  • The Regional Certification Mechanism which is part of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region's Regional Initiative against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources.

1.5 Which bodies are responsible for enforcing the applicable mining laws and regulations? What powers do they have?

The government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) is the body responsible for enforcing the applicable mining laws and regulations. Its tasks include:

  • implementing and advising the government on national policies, laws and strategies relating to mines, petroleum and gas;
  • monitoring and coordinating the implementation of strategies relating to mines, petroleum and gas; and
  • supervising and monitoring private and public entities conducting mining, trade and other mineral operations.

1.6 What is the regulators' general approach in regulating the mining sector?

The general approach of the regulator is to promote the mining industry of Rwanda, while also focusing on health and safety, protection of the environment and gender equality in mining.

2 Mining industry

2.1 How mature is the mining industry in your jurisdiction?

Mining in Rwanda began in the early 1900s, but it is only since the early 2000s that the sector has become industrialised and professionalised.

2.2 What are the key minerals which are mined in your jurisdiction and where is mining activity typically based?

The main minerals mined in Rwanda are tin, tungsten and tantalum, as well as some gold, peat and gemstones.

2.3 Are any minerals deemed strategic and, if so, what impact does this have?

Over the years the production of tantalum has increased in Rwanda, making it one of the world's top producers. Tantalum is used in the electronics industry.

2.4 Who are the key players in the mining industry in your jurisdiction?

They key players include

  • Wolfram Mining Processing Ltd;
  • Piran Resources;
  • Ngali Mining Ltd;
  • Luna Smelter Ltd;
  • Aldango Ltd;
  • Rutongo Mines Ltd;
  • Minerals Supply Africa Ltd;
  • New Bugarama Mining Company;
  • Mawarid Mining Rwanda Ltd; and
  • Power Resources Group.

2.5 In addition to exploration rights and mining rights, what other mining rights and titles exist (eg, artisanal or small-scale mining rights)?

The law distinguishes between the following types of mineral licences:

  • exploration licences;
  • mining licences – small-scale mining licences, medium-scale mining licences and large-scale mining licences;
  • mineral trading licences; and
  • mineral processing licences.

3 Exploration rights

3.1 What licences are required to undertake prospecting and exploration activities in your jurisdiction? Do these vary depending on the type of mineral or the location of the activity?

An exploration licence is required in order to undertake prospecting and exploration activities in Rwanda, irrespective of the type of mineral or the location of the activity.

3.2 What requirements must be satisfied to obtain a licence?

The government of Rwanda, through the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), has designated potential mining areas in which exploration activities can be carried out.

The general conditions for exploration of a potential mining area are:

  • a geological and geo-physical analysis; and
  • a geochemical or mineral resource.

3.3 What is the procedure for obtaining a licence? How long does this typically take?

An application for an exploration licence must be submitted to the CEO of the RMB in the prescribed form, together with the following documents:

  • a business registration certificate;
  • a geological and geophysical analysis;
  • a geochemical or mineral resource analysis;
  • a programme of exploration operations and associated costs;
  • a tax clearance certificate issued by the Rwanda Revenue Authority;
  • proof of the applicant's financial capacity issued by a financial institution or audited financial statements for at least the last two years;
  • proof of the applicant's technical capacity, including its proficiency and the CVs of key personnel;
  • an employment and skills transfer plan; and
  • maps in the prescribed format.

The applicant will be notified of the decision within 90 days of submission of a complete file.

3.4 Who can own exploration rights in your jurisdiction? Do specific requirements or restrictions apply to foreign operators?

Exploration rights are granted to legal persons, and no specific requirements or restrictions apply to foreign operators.

3.5 What fees and other charges are incurred in obtaining a licence?

The fees and charges for obtaining an exploration licence are FRW 900,000.

3.6 What is the duration of a licence? What is the process for renewal?

An exploration licence is valid for an initial period of up to four years, renewable once.

To renew an exploration mineral licence, the holder must apply in writing in the prescribed form at least 90 days before its expiry and provide the following details:

  • a report on the exploration operations carried out as of the date of the application and associated costs;
  • a detailed report of the operations carried out in any portion of the licence area, accompanied by the results, data, analysis and interpretation thereof;
  • a programme of operations to be carried out during the period of renewal and the estimated cost thereof; and
  • a plan identifying the part of the licence area for which renewal is sought.

3.7 What are the operator's rights and obligations under the licence?

The rights of the holder of an exploration licence are as follows:

  • the right to explore for the minerals in respect of which the licence is granted;
  • the right to drill boreholes and make such excavations as may be necessary;
  • the right to collect from the exploration licence area mineral samples for the purpose of analysis and valuation; however, the quantity of such samples should not exceed the limit determined through regulations issued by the competent authority;
  • the right to construct necessary buildings; and
  • the primary right to apply for a mineral licence for any portion of the exploration licence area in which mineral deposits are discovered, upon fulfilment of the required conditions for the mineral licence.

The obligations of the holder of an exploration licence are as follows:

  • to commence exploration operations within 90 days of the date of issuance of the exploration licence;
  • to submit a report to the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) every six months on the progress of the exploration operations as approved in the mineral exploration plan;
  • to train employees in accordance with the terms and conditions of the licence;
  • to immediately notify the RMB of the discovery of any mineral deposit that is not subject to the licence right;
  • to keep records of exploration operations at the holder's address in Rwanda indicating the following:
    • boreholes drilled;
    • strata penetrated, with detailed logs of such strata;
    • minerals discovered;
    • all results of the geochemical and geophysical analysis;
    • the results of identification and analysis of minerals collected from the exploration area for such purposes;
    • the geological interpretation; and
    • details of the expenditure incurred under the agreed annual plan of mineral exploration operations;
  • to submit to the RMB every year, no later than 90 days after the date of issuance of the licence for that year, an audited statement of expenditure incurred on agreed exploration operations;
  • to notify the RMB of any amendments it wishes to make to the agreed mineral exploration plan. The RMB may approve or reject the proposed amendments within 60 days of receipt of the proposal;
  • to notify and submit to the relevant body, within 30 days, any historical or any other significant object discovered in the course of the exploration activities;
  • to remove temporary buildings or other facilities within 90 days of the expiry or termination of the licence;
  • to fill or otherwise make safe any boreholes and excavations made during the course of the exploration operations; and
  • to provide a copy of any document to the RMB or any authorised officer upon request.

3.8 Are there any requirements re relinquishment of an exploration licence or part of the area covered by an exploration licence?

If at least half of the licenced area is relinquished, the annual licence fee upon renewal remains the same as that paid in the previous year.

3.9 Can licences be transferred? If so, how and subject to what consents? Do any restrictions or taxes apply to direct or indirect transfers?

An exploration licence may be transferred by assigning part or all of the shares, subject to applying for such transfer to the RMB with the following information:

  • a written application indicating the licence holder's intention to transfer the licence;
  • the minutes of the meeting held by the shareholders or members approving the transfer, made in the presence of a notary authorised by the government;
  • a profile of the transferee and the transferee's experience in the mining sector;
  • a certificate of registration of the transferee;
  • a tax clearance certificate for the transferor from the Rwanda Revenue Authority;
  • a document indicating the value of the transaction between the transferor and the transferee;
  • a document disclosing any other relations between the transferor and transferee or other common business interests; and
  • a document indicating the transferee's commitment to uphold the transferor's obligations.

The transferee assumes all rights, responsibilities and obligations of the transferor upon registration of the transfer.

3.10 Does an exploration licence give any priority when applying for a mining right?

The holder of an exploration licence has the primary right to apply for a mineral licence on any portion of the exploration licence area in which mineral deposit is discovered, upon fulfilling the required conditions for a mineral licence.

4 Mining rights

4.1 How is ownership of mining rights determined in your jurisdiction?

The ownership of mining rights in Rwanda is determined by a mining licence issued by the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB).

4.2 What are the key requirements in order to apply for a mining right?

The key requirements in order to apply for a mining right are as follows:

  • the economic value of the mineral resources in the mining area;
  • a mine design and mine development programme;
  • a mineral processing plan;
  • a social and environment management plan prepared after the approval of an environmental and social impact assessment;
  • an infrastructure development plan;
  • a health and safety plan for employees;
  • an employment, skills and technology transfer plan; and
  • a compensation and resettlement plan.

4.3 What fees and other charges are incurred in obtaining a mining right?

The fees and charges to obtain a mining right are as follows:

  • FRW 4.5 million for a large-scale mining licence;
  • FRW 2.7 million for a medium-scale mining licence; and
  • FRW 1.8 million for a small-scale mining licence.

4.4 What is the duration of a mining right? What is the process for renewal?

A mining licence is valid for an initial period of up to 15 years, renewable more than once but each time for a period of up to 15 years.

An applicant for renewal of a mining licence must apply writing in the prescribed form at least 90 days before the expiration of the licence and provide the following details:

  • the proved, estimated or inferred mineral reserves, verified by an independent consultant at the cost of the applicant and approved by the competent authority;
  • the capital investment to be made, the mining operation costs and revenue forecasts in respect of the renewal period;
  • the mining operations proposed to be carried out during the renewal period;
  • any expected changes in the method of extraction and processing of mining products; and
  • the likely social and environmental impacts, as well as proposed mitigation and compensation measures.

4.5 Who can own mining rights in your jurisdiction? Do specific requirements or restrictions apply to foreign operators?

Exploration rights are granted to legal persons, with no specific requirements or restrictions imposed on foreign operators.

4.6 Do any indigenous ownership requirements apply in your jurisdiction?

No.

4.7 What role does the state play in the mining industry in your jurisdiction?

The government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), is responsible for enforcing the applicable mining laws and regulations. Its tasks include:

  • implementing and advising the government on national policies, laws and strategies relating to mines, petroleum and gas;
  • monitoring and coordinating the implementation of strategies relating to mines, petroleum and gas; and
  • supervising and monitoring private and public entities that conduct mining, trade and other mineral operations.

4.8 Are there requirements for the government to enter into a mining development (or similar) agreement in addition to the licences/permits? When is this required or available?

In addition to a mining licence, a mining agreement between the licence holder and the competent authority determines the specific conditions for exploitation in a potential mining area.

4.9 Can mining rights be transferred? If so, how and subject to what consents? Do any restrictions or taxes apply to direct or indirect transfers?

A mining licence may be transferred by assigning part or all of the shares, subject to applying for such transfer to the RMB with the following information:

  • a written application by the licence holder indicating its intention to transfer the licence;
  • the minutes of the meeting held by the shareholders or members approving the transfer made in the presence of a notary authorised by the government;
  • a profile of the transferee and the transferee's experience in the mining sector;
  • a certificate of registration of the transferee;
  • a tax clearance certificate for the transferor from the Rwanda Revenue Authority;
  • a document indicating the value of the transaction between the transferor and the transferee;
  • a document disclosing any other relations between the transferor and transferee or other common business interests; and
  • a document indicating the transferee's commitment to uphold the transferor's obligations.

The transferee assumes all rights, responsibilities and obligations of the transferor upon registration of the transfer.

4.10 Can security be taken over mining rights?

Yes, security can be taken over mining rights.

4.11 What provisions apply with regard to closure or abandonment of a mining right?

In relation to the closure or abandonment of a mining right, the operator must establish a management plan which must be approved for the closure of the mine and includes the following details:

  • the reasons for closure;
  • a plan for the rehabilitation of the infrastructure area;
  • the methods for closing the dumping areas;
  • a plan for closing underground constructions and dangerous excavations; and
  • a plan for maintaining the closed site until the closing certificate is issued.

5 Surface rights

5.1 Does the law of your jurisdiction distinguish between mining rights and surface rights? If so, how does an owner of mining rights acquire surface rights?

The law distinguishes between the following types of mineral licences:

  • exploration licences;
  • mining licences – small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale;
  • mineral trading licences; and
  • mineral processing licences.

The owners or lawful occupiers of land that is identified as a potential mining area will be compensated in accordance with the Rwandan expropriation law before any mining activities commence.

5.2 Where surface rights are acquired, what are the operator's rights and obligations as regards the landowner? And what are the landowner's rights and obligations as regards the operator?

No answer submitted for this question.

5.3 Please give an overview of the process for any mandatory acquisition of surface rights (eg, process and time to enforce).

No answer submitted for this question.

5.4 Are any native title issues applicable, either at the exploration licence stage or when a mining right is issued?

No answer submitted for this question.

5.5 Are any other rights needed to use the land (eg, zoning permissions or planning requirements)?

No answer submitted for this question.

6 Environmental issues

6.1 What environmental authorisations are required to undertake prospecting, exploration and mining activities in your jurisdiction? Do these vary depending on the type of mineral or the location of the activity?

Before commencing mining operations, the holder of a mining licence must submit an approved environmental impact assessment and social welfare report.

6.2 What environmental obligations must the operator observe while the mine is operational?

A monthly report must be submitted which explains how the following issues are managed:

  • soil degradation that is likely to cause erosion or affect socio-economic activities;
  • the risk of soil contamination;
  • the prevention of contamination caused by previous activities;
  • the risk of instability of banks; and
  • environmental risks resulting from earthquakes.

6.3 What environmental obligations must the operator observe in relation to closure of the mine?

In relation to the closure of the mine, the operator must establish and obtain approval of a management plan which includes the following details:

  • the reasons for clossure;
  • a plan for the rehabilitation of the infrastructure area;
  • the methods for closing the dumping areas;
  • a plan for closing underground constructions and dangerous excavations; and
  • a plan for maintaining the closed site until the closing certificate is issued.

6.4 What are the potential consequences of breach of these requirements – both for the operator itself and for directors, managers and employees?

The law provides for the imposition of fines on, and the imprisonment of, operators and individuals.

6.5 Which bodies are responsible for enforcement of environmental obligations?

The Rwanda Environment Management Authority.

6.6 What is the regulators' general approach in regulating the mining sector from an environmental perspective?

While the government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, considers mining as a key driver for the economy, environmental conservation is also among its top priorities.

7 Health and safety

7.1 What key health and safety requirements apply to operators in your jurisdiction?

The key health and safety requirements which apply to operators in Rwanda are as follows:

  • Ensure that the mine is commissioned, maintained and decommissioned in a manner that does not compromise the health and safety of workers and other people; and
  • Ensure that all persons working at the mine have the necessary skills, competence and resources to carry out their work safely and to ensure the safety of others.

7.2 What reporting requirements apply with regard to mining accidents in your jurisdiction?

  • The Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB);
  • The Rwanda Investigation Bureau; and
  • The Rwanda National Police.

7.3 What are the potential consequences of breach of these requirements – both for the operator itself and for directors, managers and employees?

The law provides for the imposition of fines on, and the imprisonment of, operators and individuals.

7.4 What best practices in relation to health and safety should operators consider adopting in your jurisdiction?

It is recommended that operators adopt international best practices in Rwanda in relation to health and safety.

7.5 Which bodies are responsible for enforcement of health and safety obligations?

The RMB.

7.6 What is the regulators' general approach in regulating the mining sector from a health and safety perspective?

While the government of Rwanda, through the RMB, considers mining as a key driver of the economy, health and safety are also among its top priorities.

8 Processing, refining and export

8.1 What requirements and restrictions apply with regard to the processing or refining (beneficiation) or minerals?

The processing and refining of minerals are subject to a licence granted by the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB). An application for a mineral processing or refining licence must be submitted to the chief executive officer (CEO) in the prescribed form, together with the following documents:

  • the applicant's business registration certificate;
  • the profile of the applicant;
  • the applicant's business plan;
  • a tax clearance certificate from the Rwanda Revenue Authority;
  • proof of financial capacity to carry out the mineral processing activities;
  • proof of technical capacity to carry out the mineral processing activities; and
  • any other relevant information or documents as may be required by the CEO.

8.2 What requirements and restrictions apply to the export of minerals?

The export of minerals is subject to a licence granted by the RMB.

An application for a mineral trading licence must be submitted to the CEO in the prescribed form, together with the following documents:

  • the applicant's local business registration certificate;
  • the profile of the applicant;
  • the applicant's business plan, consisting of a schedule of activities to be carried out under the licence and corresponding timelines, the technologies to be used, the costs and the manner of carrying out the activities;
  • a tax clearance certificate from the Rwanda Revenue Authority;
  • proof of a deposit of the Rwandan franc equivalent of $250,000 held in a local bank as proof of the applicant's financial capacity to carry out the trading activities; and
  • any other documents as may be required by the CEO.

9 Taxes and royalties

9.1 What taxes, royalties and similar charges are levied on mining operators in your jurisdiction? How are these calculated?

The applicable mineral taxes are as follows:

  • 4% of the norm value for base metals and other mineral substances of that kind;
  • 6% of the norm value for precious metals of gold category and other precious metals of that kind; and
  • 6% of the gross value for precious metals of diamond category and other precious stones of that kind.

9.2 Are any tax incentives available for mining operators?

The following tax incentives are available for mining operators:

  • a 0% corporate income tax rate if a mining company relocates its headquarter to Rwanda;
  • a corporate income tax holiday for up to seven years for an investment of at least $50 million;
  • a 15% preferential corporate income tax rate for projects exporting processed minerals where up to 50% of the turnover of minerals is produced in Rwanda;
  • an investment allowance of 50% or accelerated depreciation of 50%;
  • a capital gains tax exemption and free repatriation of capital and assets;
  • tax-free imports of heavy machinery used in mining activities; and
  • a value-added tax exemption on mining equipment.

9.3 What other strategies might mining operators consider to mitigate their tax liabilities?

Mining operators might consider using the framework of the soon to be established Kigali International Financial Centre.

9.4 Have there been any significant changes to the taxation rates applicable to mining companies in the last three years?

No.

10 Disputes

10.1 In which forums are mining disputes typically heard in your jurisdiction?

International arbitration, and increasingly arbitration before the Kigali International Arbitration Centre.

10.2 What issues do such disputes typically involve? How are they typically resolved?

Breach of contractual obligations.

10.3 Have there been any recent cases of note?

Bay View Group LLC v Republic of Rwanda (ICSID Case ARB/18/21).

11 Trends and predictions

11.1 What changes have there been to the mining landscape in your jurisdiction in the last five years?

The mining landscape in Rwanda has been developing very fast and is becoming increasingly professional. The mining sector is now the second-largest foreign exchange revenue contributor to the country's income.

11.2 How would you describe the current mining landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?

The objective of the government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, is to increase annual mineral revenues, including through further legislative reforms where necessary.

12 Tips and traps

12.1 What are your top tips for mining operators in your jurisdiction and what potential sticking points would you highlight?

Mining operators should take advantage of the ambitions of the government of Rwanda to develop and transform the mining sector and become a mineral processing hub. From experience, the government is always open to suggestions that would help it realise its ambitions in the mining sector.

Mrs Gaëlle Ntakagero assisted with the preparation of this Guide.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.