Before the massacres of 1994, mineral commodities typically provided 10% of export earnings, mainly from concentrates of tin, tungsten, and colombium-tantalum ores, and gold bullion. Although Rwanda has recovered most of the mineral output lost in 1994, many obstacles continued blocking full utilization of existing resources. Among them were the absence of high-grade ores, the lack of sufficient capital, continued civil unrest, massive population displacements, a 65% poverty rate, a shortage of skilled labor, the country's landlocked status, transportation costs among the highest in Africa, a recent increase in oil prices, a nagging Hutu extremist insurgency, and involvement in two wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1999, mining accounted for less than 1% of GDP, and tungsten and tin ore and concentrates accounted for 5% of exports. Cement was Rwanda's top industry in 2002, and tin ore was the fourth-ranking export commodity.
In 2000, estimated mineral production included 345 tons of tin ore (metal content), compared to 260 in 1998 and 400 in 1993; tungsten ore, 130 tons, compared to 49 in 1996 and 175 in 1993; cement, 69,600 tons; columbite-tantalite ore and concentrate (gross weight), 83,000 kg, down from 224,000 in 1998; and mined gold, 10 kg. Rwanda also produced natural gas. Some lava beds of the west and northwest contained potassium compounds useful for fertilizers. Exploitation of the country's peat deposits could become necessary to meet the subsistence farming sector's energy needs, Rwanda's deforestation rate being the third highest in Africa.
The Rwandan mineral industry consisted mostly of a number of small cooperatives and individual artisanal miners who produced ores and concentrates from scattered locations generally in a 30-km-wide zone that extended east–west through Kigali. In 2000, the government privatized Régie d'Exloitation et de Développement des Mines, the state mining exploration company.