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Rwanda builds first Tantalum and Niobium refinery

The East African country’s investment in the sector could turn around its mining industry.

International mining processing firm, Power Resource Group (PRG) Plc, will start building Rwanda’s first tantalum and niobium refinery, soon. The firm is investing an estimated USD 16 million for the plant, which is expected to be operational in less than a year.

PRG said it would focus its efforts on boosting efficiency, upgrading technology and increasing the volume and value of exports.

Tantalum is a rare, highly corrosion-resistant, metal that is widely used as a minor component in alloys. The metal is also a substitute for platinum. Nobium is very similar to Tantalum. According to the Minerals Commodity Summaries which is published by the United States Geological Survey, Rwanda provides about 37 percent of the global tantalum production. Despite this, in 2016, the country’s mining sector only conducted USD 200 million in exports.

Francis Gatare, CEO of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board, told The New Times newspaper that insourcing skills for the project was high on agenda. “We will work with locals on a mining project. We are also working with them on transfer of technology with an aim of increasing productivity.

PRG told the publication it would initially process about 10 metric tonnes of ore a month, then scale up production to 30 metric tonnes and optimally produce 60 metric tonnes a month.

According to Mr. Gatare, Rwanda has seen an increase in foreign investors who are interested in the country’s mining sector.

He was quoted as saying, “For quite some time, we have been knocking on doors to demonstrate to them opportunities for minerals in the country, particularly tantalum… We are targeting investors to take up high value rich mineral concessions that have been identified so that we can partner with them in deploying modern mining technology to increase efficiency and productivity.”

In 2016, Rwanda’s mining sector fetched USD 200 million in exports. The target for 2017, looks set on USD 300 million, with the first quarter hitting the USD 48 million mark.

Mr. Gatare said once the new Tantalum plant was up and running, the value of ore could increase by a whopping 20-30 percent.

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