Securing Zambia's lost gemstones

From Zambian Economist Tue Dec 4 2012, 21:10:00

By Chola Mukanga

Gemstones are among the most lucrative minerals in the world. They are also stones that Zambia has in abundance. It has the second largest deposits of emeralds in the world and accounts for about 20% of global supplies. The quality of these emerald stones is very good for colour and specific gravity. Zambia also possesses Africa's largest deposits of amethyst and aquamarine, with the quality of the former considered to be amongst the very best in the world. These deposits can be found in Copperbelt, Eastern and Southern provinces, with more discoveries being made in other parts of Zambia as exploration intensifies.

Unfortunately, like much of Zambia's mining story, the country has failed to benefit from these vast gemstones riches. Our completely liberalised gemstones sector have not delivered any tangible benefits to ordinary Zambians. There's minimal employment creation, most of them are not owned by Zambians and the tax revenue is non-existent. As former Mines Minister Wilbur Simuusa, put it, "the gemstone sector can contribute about US$700 million annually if properly managed". That dwarfs any amount being collected currently from copper mining. Properly managed, the production of gemstones has the potential to earn the country significant tax revenues and aid the much diversification away from copper. A full fledged gemstone sector may also be a catalyst in fighting, especially if it is dominated by indigenous firms and is able to create employment for many jobless youths.

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