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Mining companies on the spot over working conditions

Rwanda Miners Union has called on companies involved in the mining business to seek sustainable solutions to major problems that are hampering workers’ productivity and welfare in the sector.

The appeal is made amidst the celebration of International Mining Day.

Andre Mutsindashyaka, the Secretary General of Rwanda Extractive Workers’ Union said one of the main problems affecting mining workers is that companies do not offer contracts, insurance and also lack a minimum wage.

“Majority of workers in the mining companies have no contracts which is contrary to labour law. This affects workers’ welfare and lives without optimism for a better future,” he said.

He said that such workers have no access to finance from banks as they have no contracts to present.

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“Banks can’t provide loans to these workers because they have no assurance that they can pay back the loan since they can be laid off any time,” he noted.

The union has so far over 12,600 members across the country.

Most of the workers, the employment advocate said, are financially incapable due to low salaries.

“However, even those who get the meager wages are not paid through financial institutions; they are paid in cash,” he said, adding that there some workers who work but are not paid on time.

We call on the Ministry of Labour to establish a minimum wage that should be paid to workers in mining sites,” he said.

Many workers, he said, are laid off contrary to labour laws in addition to unpaid arrears.

According to the union’s assessment, most of the mining companies do not pay insurance and pension benefits to the workers despite the fact that accidents and respiratory diseases are common in the trade.

Companies urged to work with banks

Mining companies have been urged to work with banks so as to afford modern technologies to optimize minerals productivity and be able to meet workers’ expectations.

It is expected that once mining companies optimizes productivity, the profits will have a positive impact on workers.

Jean Malik Kalima, the chairperson of the Rwanda Mining Association said: “There is what we request the government to help mining companies modernize operations. But we are also urging companies and financial institutions to work together so as to afford required infrastructure,” he said.

According to Rwanda Mines Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), in 2018, only 23 percent of mining firms were complying with mining standards and 40 percent in 2019, meaning that the firms failed to comply with modern mining operations and needed infrastructure, safety and health standards, waste management, environment protection, processing and others.

Francis Gatare, the Chief Executive of Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) said that  companies should work with financial institutions to embrace modern mining operations to increase productivity and infrastructure that will ensure worker’s welfare and safety.

“The employees should be given contracts. We have been discussing the minimum wages they should get,” he noted.

Officials at the institutions say that reforms have been introduced to ensure mining companies get license as long as they fulfill all requirements including modern operations.

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