By NKWETO MFULA and JERRY MUNTHALI
A MINING expert says Government’s move to ban the auctioning of emeralds abroad will trigger the growth of the gemstone sector and impact positively on Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Dr Sixtus Mulenga, who is Geological Society of Zambia chairman, said the gemstone sector has huge potential to create industries, especially in the cutting and polishing of precious stones.
He also said the ban on emerald exports will result in the establishment of a strong lapidary industry in Ndola.
“It is a very excellent move; it will make significant contribution towards the GDP of Zambia. We applaud Government on this move as it will result in job creation in the sector,” Dr Mulenga said.
He said in an interview yesterday Government will now be able to quantify the exports and the value of emeralds, which was not known before.
“Emerald-cutting industries are likely to be constructed in Ndola. Previously, premiums for the gemstone sector were obtained outside Zambia like in India, Europe and many other foreign countries,” Dr Mulenga said.
He said Zambians will now play an active role in the gemstone industry because middlemen will no longer be involved.
Dr Mulenga said in the past, most gemstone miners auctioned their products through middlemen and that this will no longer be the case.
And Mineworkers Union of Zambia (MUZ) deputy-general secretary Leonard Phiri welcomed Government’s move to ban the auctioning of emeralds abroad.
“The auctioning of emeralds has been done on the local market before and it was just in the recent past when Government allowed the auctioning of gemstones outside the country,” Mr Phiri said
He added: “The buyers were being invited and they would come in the country, that encouraged people to visit Zambia.”
But the Alliance for Responsible Mining in Zambia (ARMZ) says the auctioning of emeralds locally will result in revenue losses for the country.
ARMZ executive director Victor Kalesha said in response to a press query yesterday that there is great misunderstanding regarding the auctioning of gemstones.
“Auctioning stones locally is what will make the country lose out.
When you are auctioning stones locally, the big buyers do not come and as such you only pocket buyers who go to sell to big buyers,” he said.
Mr Kalesha, who is Emerald and Semi-Precious Stones Mining Association of Zambia (ESMAZ) general-secretary, said all that is needed is proper monitoring and that measures should be put in place to prevent porous auctioning.
“The other way to do it is to make Zambia Revenue Authority, Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development, Ministry of Commerce, and Trade and Industry and Ministry of Finance aware of the true value of emeralds and the grading from low quality to high quality,” Mr Kalesha
He said the auctioning of emeralds locally was tried by Kagem Mining and it was noticed that local sales were very low.
“But if you notice the increase in Gemfields sales, you are able to tell that outside auctioning is the best because it attracts big buyers,” Mr Kalesha said.
He said Government should also involve associations such as ESMAZ, ARMZ and Kalomo miners in the monitoring of production for mines.
“The problem is that decisions are being made by people who do not understand the industry without consulting the players on the ground,” Mr Kalesha said.
Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Yamfwa Mukanga announced on Friday that the auctioning of Zambian emeralds would no longer be done abroad.
Mr Mukanga said the move is aimed at earning Zambia more money from its mineral wealth.
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