New rechargeable headtorches to improve mining safety, sustainability in Rwanda

January 25, 2024
Photo from the Illuminating Small-Scale Mining in Rwanda (ISMR) project.
A miner in Rwanda walks toward a tunnel entrance. Photo credit: James McQuilken/Pact.

Pact’s Illuminating Small-Scale Mining (ISMR) project, an initiative working to improve the lives of some of the most marginalized members of the hidden workforce in Rwanda, has signed an agreement with Generation Mining Development Corporation (GMDC) to pilot rechargeable headtorches to improve safety and sustainability in mining.  

Partnering with the private sector, Pact will introduce rechargeable headtorches and solar energy systems to replace disposable battery-powered hand torches that are unpractical and break easily. The new headtorches will also improve safety, productivity and sustainability in Rwanda’s mining sector by allowing miners the use of both hands for their mining work, and to protect themselves in the case of incidents.  

GMDC is a women-owned small-scale tungsten (wolfram) mine on the outskirts of Kigali committed to improving worker safety, gender equality and sustainability in mining. Tungsten is critical to the green energy transition due to its use in wind turbines and solar panels.   

By utilizing charging systems to power the torches, in place of disposable batteries, the pilot project will create long-term savings for the miners and mining companies and reduce the amount of environmental waste produced through replacing used batteries. Given that most used batteries offer a life of just 10 to 12 hours, our research estimates that over 15 million batteries will no longer need to be disposed of by Rwanda’s mining sector each year. 

Women’s safety is also at the forefront of the project’s ambitions. By creating access to more advanced lighting systems, we hope to contribute to improved feelings of safety by female miners in dark tunnels, increasing accessibility for women in a wider variety of mining roles.   

The overarching aim of this pilot is to create a self-sustaining market of rechargeable headtorches in the Rwandan mining sector. To do so, the project is connecting mines and local headtorch suppliers with financial institutions to build relationships and negotiate terms of microfinanciers and loans to build independent relationships, helping to secure the longevity of this initiative.   

 By introducing quality headtorches, financing models and potentially solar power, the project aims to ensure more resilient, sustainable and responsible mining communities. It is also aligned with Pact’s commitment to the green energy transition and global 2030 and 2050 environmental goals.