Muhanga: Residents warned against illegal mining

Residents of Muhanga District have been warned against illegal mining practices, which in some cases result into loss of lives.

The caution was issued by officials on Saturday, November 7, following a fatal illegal mining incident, in which five people died.

The fatal incident occurred on Friday, November 6, at about 6:30pm when five people, including a mother and her four-month child, were buried by landslides as they were conducting illegal mining activities in a coltan closed concession located in Gahabwa village, Nyamirama cell in Muhanga Sector of Muhanga District.

The deceased are identified as Felix Kubwimana, 29, and his young brother Alexis Rwamasasu, 26, Claudine Ingabire and her four-month child, and one Vestine Munganyinka, 15.

Two other people, both teens, were also rescued with serious injuries and rushed to Kabgayi hospital for medical attention.

The coltan concession formally owned by one Innocent Bikorimana under TIMO mining company, was closed over safety concerns.

The Governor of the Southern Province, Alice Kayitesi, while speaking at the burial of the victims on Saturday, comforted the bereaved families.

She reminded residents to desist from such illegal and life-threatening practices, which in most cases are carried out in the night or when it is raining. 

"What we are witnessing here is an avoidable tragedy. Unfortunately, we take lessons from situations that cannot be reversed. 

We hope not to lose loved ones in such circumstances again, and that comes back to individual and collective ownership as residents and leaders by reporting illegal miners and traders  as well as ensuring that all children go to school instead of roaming in such illegal and life-threatening practices," Governor Kayitesi told the mourners.

She urged them to form or join mining cooperatives for clean and profitable business instead of putting their lives in danger.

The burial was held in consideration of COVID-19 prevention measures including the number of people, washing hands, wearing face mask and social distancing.

The Southern Region Police Commander (RPC), Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Innocent Rutagarama Kanyamihigo told residents that illegal mining not only is punishable by law, but is also an environmental concern, which leads to insecurity, including lifetime injuries fatalities.

Article 54 of the law on mining and quarry operations, states that; “any person, who undertakes mineral or quarry exploration, exploitation, processing or trading without a licence commits an offence.” 

Upon conviction, the offender is liable to imprisonment for a term of between two and six months and a fine of not less than Frw1 million and not more than Frw5 million or only one of these penalties.    

The court also orders confiscation of any seized minerals or quarry in storage, trading or processing without a license.

CSP Kanyamihigo told residents that a list of illegal miners, those involved in illegal mineral trade and buying minerals from illegal miners is being compiled to facilitate further security operations against the unlawful and risky practices.

Illegal mining practices in Muhanga District are reportedly common in the sectors of Nyarusange, Kabacuzi and Muhanga where Police operation against the practice have been increased. 

He further called for increased community patrols and information sharing on such unlawful activities and any suspected criminal acts.

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