Rwanda’s strategic Sn-W-Ta endowment: Tectonic and metallogenic framework


Although small, Rwanda hosts significant deposits of the critical “3T” metals: tin, tungsten, and tantalum. These deposits are found as both vein and pegmatite-hosted style magmatic-hydrothermal mineralization (e.g., Pohl 1994; Dewale et al. 2011). The magmatism driving these deposits is most likely related to the ca. 1.4-1.0 Ga Kibaran Orogeny during the assembly of Rodinia (e.g. Tack et al. 2010). However, much geochronological work on Rwanda’s magmatic history was undertaken in the 1980’s and earlier (e.g. Cahen et al. 1984; Fernandez-Alonso et al. 1986), and the broad tectonic framework of the terrane is poorly constrained. Accordingly, there is a lack of modern geological and geochemical characterization of the tectonic and magmatic framework which gave rise to Rwanda’s 3T ore deposits, and which hinders investment into its strategic metal endowment. Such a modern geological framework is required to promote an investment-related infrastructure to help Rwanda sustainably exploit its mineral endowment.

The goal of the PhD project is to build a new geological framework that relates Rwanda’s magmatic-hosted critial metal deposits to its tectonic architecture [Fig. 1]. To achieve this goal, it will use modern mapping techniques to ground-truth historic geological maps, and help update the regional geology of the country. It will then sample appropriate magmatic intrusions and apply modern geochemical and isotopic methods (e.g. U-Pb, Hf and O isotopes in zircon, and whole-rock major and trace elements) to targeted samples to characterize the various generations of magmatism. Finally, it will use these data to build a new regional tectonic and metallogenic model for Rwanda, and use this to provide a framework for revised Sn-W-Ta mineralization models, which in turn will assist the exploration activities of ArfiTin and other miners.

The candidate will work in partnership with ArfiTin Mining, a Johannesburg-based miner, in tandem with the Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB), and with the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. A key aspect of the project is knowledge transfer and partnership with local Rwandan geologists.

The project builds on existing research into the tectonic and metallogenic framework of magmatic-hydrothermal mineral deposits at the University of St Andrews (e.g., Gardiner et al., 2018; Fig. 2), and will join the lively Solid Earth and Planetary Science Research group.

Click on an image to expand

Image Captions

Fig 1. Simplified Geological map of Rwanda showing major granitic intrusions. From Muchez et al., 2014.

Fig. 2. Example Hf evolution plot, here for Myanmar, showing how this type of data informs on the magmatic framework for granite-hosted mineral deposits. From Gardiner et al. (2018).


Fieldwork will be conducted by the PhD student during at least one visit to Rwanda, in collaboration with the Rwanda Mining Board (RMB). Fieldwork will initially centre around sample collection and ground-truthing the historically mapped granitic intrusions around the country.

Analytical work will be carried out at both the University of St Andrews and the British Geological Survey. Both the St Andrews Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory (StAIG) and BGS are equipped with laser ablation ICP-MS facilities to undertake in-situ trace element and isotopic analyses of mineral phases, and to date magmatic rocks through zircon U-Pb geochronology. Hf isotopes in zircon will also be measured to provide information on magmatic source.

Project Timeline

Year 1

Literature review, review historic data from Rwanda. Field season (April/May 2021) to collect samples for analysis.

Year 2

Laboratory training. Collect initial geochemical and isotopic data; petrographic analysis; present results at international conference

Year 3

Internship in Johannesburg to build GIS geological model. Possible Field Season 2, and further analytical work. Integrate dataset & prepare manuscript for peer reviewed journal

Year 3.5

6 months completing thesis, writing papers.

& Skills

The PhD student will join the Solid Earth and Planetary Science Research Group at the University of St Andrews, and become part of a vibrant research culture in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, with MSc, PhD and postdocs working on a wide range of Earth Science research projects.

Full training in digital-based field mapping and sample selection will be provided, as well as in sample categorization and preparation, and geochemical and isotopic analysis. Both the St Andrews Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory (StAIG) and BGS will provide essential analytical support for this project but all School research facilities will be made available as required.

The internship will place the PhD student within the Johannesburg-based exploration department at AfriTin, where full training in GIS and other resource modelling software will be given.

The candidate will be required to travel to Rwanda to conduct fieldwork at in year 1 and also possibly in year 3. Fieldwork will be supported by AfriTin Mining, local geologists at the RMB, and the supervisors. The student is also expected to attend national and international conferences to disseminate research results and to spend time away from St Andrews to integrate project partners at the partner institutes.

The student will become part of the IAPETUS DTP, which offers a multidisciplinary package of training focused around meeting the specific needs and requirements of each of our students who benefit from the combined strengths and expertise that is available across our partner organisations.

References & further reading

Dewale S, Henjes-Kunst F, Melcher F, Sitnikova M, Burgess R, Gedes A, Fernandez-Alonso M, De Clerq F, Muches P, Lehmann B. 2011. Late Neoproterozoic overprinting of the cassiterite and columbite-tantalite bearing pegmatites of the Gatumba area, Rwanda. Journal of African Earth Sciences 61, 10-26

Cahen, L, Snelling NJ, Delhal J, Vail JR, Bonhomme M, Ledent D 1984. The geochronology and evolution of Africa. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 512pp

Fernandez-Alonso M, Lavreau J, Klerkx J. 1986. Geochemistry and geochronology of the Kibaran granites in Burundi, Central Africa: Implications for the Kibaran orogeny. Chemical Geology 57, 217-234

Gardiner NJ, Searle MP, Robb LJ, Morley CK, Whitehouse MJ, Roberts NMW, Kirkland CL, Spencer CJ. 2018. The crustal architecture of Myanmar imaged through zircon U-Pb, Lu-Hf and O isotopes: Tectonic and metallogenic implications. Gondwana Research 62, 27-60

Muchez P, Hulsbosch N, Dewaele S. 2014. Geological mapping and implications for Nb-Ta, Sn and W prospection in Rwanda. Bulletin des Séances. Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer 60, 515-530

Pohl W. 1994. Metallogeny of the northeastern Kibara belt, Central Africa—Recent perspectives. Ore Geology Reviews 9, 105-130.

Tack L, Wingate M, De Waele B, Meert J, Belousova EA, Griffin W, Tahon A, Fernandez-Alonso M. 2010. The 1375Ma “Kibaran eventâ€ in Central Africa: prominent emplacement of bimodal magmatism under extensional regime. Precambrian Research 180, 63-84.

Further Information

For any information on the project or the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at St Andrews, please contact Nick Gardiner (

Apply Now