By Wahard Betha
The Malawi Government is advancing its plans to establish gemstone marketing centres in an attempt to ease the problem of lack of market access for the minerals, the 2020/21 Annual Economic Report states.
The Report also indicates that production of precious and semi – precious stones (gemstones) increased considerably to about 20.4 tonnes in the 2020/21 financial year.
It says the increase in production was due to steadily increasing demand for gemstones both locally and internationally.
It reads: “Gemstones in Malawi are mined by small-scale miners across the country but marketing of gemstones requires use of sophisticated marketing techniques.”
“Currently, Ministry of Mining is fighting illegal mining activities for precious stones that have become rampant in the country.”
“The Ministry intends to find ways to establish gemstone marketing centres to ease the problem of lack of market access encountered by most of the legitimate artisanal and small-scale miners.”
However, in the report, Government also laments problems in the local gemstone market stating that often production figures declared by exporters might be much more than the declared figures as the industry is infested with lots of smugglers camouflaging as innocent buyers and yet clandestine as middlemen in the gemstone sub-sector who do not declare at all what they get from the small-scale miners.
It says: “The situation is even made worst by the locals who support and shelter them in communities where illegal mining is taking place.”
“Similarly, some small-scale miners do not bother to declare their production figures for fear of being investigated by Government regulators or enforcing agents on the source of these illegal gemstone buyers.”
It, however, says most locals have continued to exploit gemstones across the country for their livelihood although some of these activities remain illegal and difficult to regulate.
The report also says the illegal activities in the subsector continue to trigger robbing of Government’s revenues that would have been realized from the subsector.
The recorded data of the gemstones for 2020/2021 financial year only came from the legally registered miners who duly declared productions during export of such commodities.
Meanwhile, the Government continues to work hand in hand with various security agencies in the country to curb illegal gemstone mining and selling through intensive sensitization campaigns and systematic formalization of the small-scale mining sub-sector.
The report states that though the initiative is making progress in some areas, some of these measures are meeting resistance from other quarters due to disagreements amongst the miners themselves and issues to do with land ownership.
The gemstones and mineral specimens sector employed 2,130 in the year 2020; and estimated employment rate in 2021 was 2,343; while 2022 projected employment rate trials is at 2,577.
Export of minerals in the 2020/21 financial year by different operators continued to be dominated by ornamental/dimension stones, gemstones, lime products as well as rock chip samples and soil samples.
During the period, due to lack of accredited laboratory facilities, the country continued to rely on foreign based accredited laboratories with state of the art equipment like Genalysis Laboratory and ALS (Metallurgy) Laboratory based in both Australia and South Africa, Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services based in Kenya and Thin Section Laboratory based in France.