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Burundi suspends Africa’s only rare earths mining To pursue local empower

BUJUMBURA, (The Southern African Times) – The government of Burundi on Friday confirmed it has suspended the operations of several international mining companies, including the one that operates Africa’s only rare earths mine in production in western Burundi, to bring more benefits to the Burundian people.

“Around April this year, I wrote to several mining companies, asking them to stop exportation of minerals. I have now written to them again directing to stop mining,” Burundian Minister of Water, Energy and Minerals Ibrahim Uwizeye told SAT in a telephone interview.

“I have invited owners of mining companies to renegotiate new terms that benefit them and the people of Burundi,” said Uwizeye, adding that the companies and the government need to find “a better way forward” before they resume operations.

The minister emphasized his government is not targeting any companies or countries, but expects “equal sharing” of Burundi’s wealth.

According to the minister’s letter, the affected companies include Guernsey-registered Rainbow Rare Earths, which has 90 percent of interest in Gakara Rare Earth Project in western Burundi.

Burundi owns 10 percent, which is non-dilutable.

Rainbow was granted a mining license valid for 25 years in 2015, which covers an area of over 39 square km. According to the company, the project has one of the world’s richest rare earth deposits.

The company tweeted in June that its CEO George Bennett will fly to Burundi in early July to discuss operating the project with Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Other companies which are suspended include gold and coltan companies.

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