At least 30 people have been arrested in separate operations conducted in Gatsibo District after they were allegedly found in illegal mining activities.
The suspects were arrested during a special operations conducted in the night of June 20 in Rugarama Sector, Police Spokesperson for the Eastern Province, Inspector of Police (IP) Jean Bosco Dusabe, said.
They were mining cassiterite, he added. The Police was tipped off by area residents.
The suspects are currently held at Rugarama Police station as investigations proceed.
“Rwanda National Police and other partners in environmental protection are actively involved in awareness and operations against illegal mining and other environmental related crimes. Whereas arrest and prosecution are part of the fight, the main intention is to educate the people on dangers and legal aspects involved in such unlawful activities,” said IP Dusabe.
He said that, “mining activities in Rwanda are conducted in accordance with the law protecting the environment and by licenced people and group.”
“There are legalities for one to conduct mining activities; you must have a license and all the required equipment for safe mining. The concession also has to be known and registered. In this specific case, the suspects were mining in a place that is not gazetted for mining,” he said.
He thanked those who provided information on the unlawful act, and urged them to maintain the spirit of community policing.
“Mining is not something that can be practiced by anyone; it requires skills and knowledge. If it is done wrongly, a lot is at risk, including people’s lives.”
He noted that Police in partnership with the local authorities have carried out sensitization campaigns to ensure residents realize the dangers involved in illegal mining, especially in areas that are not gazzetted for mining.
“Collective efforts especially through information sharing are important in curbing illegal mining and other unlawful acts,” he said.
Undertaking illegal research or commercial activities in valuable minerals attracts a jail term of up to one year and a fine of between Rwf3 million and Rwf10 million or one of these penalties, under article 438 of the penal code.
RNP established, in 2015, the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU), which has been instrumental in enforcing the law, preservation of environment through environmental education, practical interpretation of the environmental laws to citizens and engaging in the public environment management awareness campaign.