EDITORIAL: Enforce health, safety rules in mining sector

Monday November 02 2020

Up to 95 people have died in the past two years in a number of mining accidents, with the Rwanda Mining Board recording 81 casualties in 2018 alone. PHOTO | FILE


Between January and October, up to 24 miners in died and many others survived with critical injuries when mines collapsed.

The number is just a little less than that of people who have succumbed to Covid-19, which so far stands at 35.

This is not the first time mineral tunnels have collapsed and killed people in the country, yet little or nothing is done to fix what causes these deaths.

Up to 95 people have died in the past two years in a number of mining accidents, with the Rwanda Mining Board recording 81 casualties in 2018 alone.

The mining board blames these accidents to poor mining practices by some companies, especially those involved in mall-scale mining.

The board has also pointed out that the mines underground tunnels for some mining companies lack support hence the collapses. It adds that mining firms are slow to implement safety standards.


Authorities say hilly landscape is also partly to blame because it is susceptible to landslides and mine collapses especially when it rains.

But the biggest question remains, why the board and government as a whole does not reign in on these errant miners to make sure they close these gaps.

A study conducted by a consortium of labour unions recently revealed that the lives of thousands of miners are in danger due to non-compliance to safety precautions and rights violations by mining companies.

The study further highlights that the mining sector takes the lead as the sector with the most violations of their workers’ rights out of those surveyed.

The report indicated that safety standards of practice which are supposed to apply to all mining-related work including open pits, underground mines and tunnel mining, were not observed by all players.

What is sad is that these companies will continue operating, and the lives of many miners will be sacrificed at the alter of the country getting mineral receipts.

It is surprising that the senate and parliament are quiet about such an issue, yet a commission should have been already put in place to not only investigate these companies, but make them answerable for the negligence of peoples lives to the point people continue to die in the mines.

Tough penalties need to be introduced, where companies that do not comply with safety standards or those that do not take reinforce their pits, will have their licences revoked.

These poor workers who die every year leave behind families whom they were the breadwinners, so these companies should also compensate these families.

Over 50 former miners are also reported to have been diagnosed with silicosis, and an unspecified number is reported to have died of a deadly lung disease they contracted from inhaling poisonous substances while in tin pits, because many of these miners were not facilitated with protective gear while working in the mines.