Due to rising COVID infections in the country, the Rwandan government has announced new measures to slow the spread.
Cases had previously peaked in early 2021, reaching 574 new cases on 26 January. However, cases have surged in the last month; in the last week, daily new reported infections have exceeded 800.
The rise in cases has forced the government to step in. From 1 July, a mandatory curfew will be in place between 18:00 and 04:00, and all offices are to be closed for two weeks in the capital Kigali, as well as eight other districts. Private companies will only be allowed to operate with 50% of their staff.
Mining is a major contributor to the economy of Rwanda, with production of tin a major part of this. In 2020, Rwanda produced some 1,700 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate, down some 25% year-on-year due to the impact of coronavirus.
Following the latest announcement, mines’ output is likely to fall again.
“Yes, we’re remaining open”, Luke Rogers, Mining Operations Manager for TechMet, told ITA, “but [we are] going down to a 50% workforce which has been stipulated by the government”. TechMet operates Rutongo Mines in Rwanda.
With government offices closed, some were concerned that exports from the country may be affected – as they were in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo when government offices were closed following the eruption of Mt Nyiragongo. However, Francis Gatare, CEO of Rwanda’s Mines, Petroleum, and Gas Board, assured Reuters that mining exports would not be affected. According to Gatare, export permits for minerals are processed online. Goods transportation is also exempt from the two-week movement restrictions.
However, it is not only mining that will be impacted by the new rules. Like TechMet, LuNa Smelter Ltd. will continue its operations, but its workforce will be limited. The company, which began operating in the country in 2018, has an annual capacity of 2,700 tonnes of tin metal, but had to operate at half that level during the earlier lockdown.
However, Darya Malyutina, Market Analyst at Luma Holding, believes that the impact will not be too large. “Based on the solutions developed during the 2020 spring lockdown, the company will make every effort to minimize the impact of the current phase of the pandemic on its daily operations”. Luma Holding is the majority owner of the smelter.
Our view: Under the new regulations, all private businesses will be limited to just half of the workforce. This might affect all tin mines in the country. Although tin concentrate production has averaged some 200 tonnes tin-in-concentrate per month so far this year, this could halve in the short-term – as it did last year during the country’s first lockdown. However, following the lockdown, production recovered rapidly and we suspect that the impact of this two-week lockdown on annual production will be relatively immaterial.