Government to establish gemstone market centre
By Deborah Manda
The Malawi Government has planned to establish a gemstone market centre in the country to enable artisanal and small scale miners (ASMs) have a ready market for their gems and curb smuggling of the minerals which is rampant.
Director for the Department of Mines in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Jalf Salima told Mining & Trade Review that the development is one way of formalising the ASM subsector to maximize income for the miners, owing to better prices to be offered at the organized market, and the government through an upsurge in collection of revenue in form of taxes and licence fees.
It is unfortunate that a lot of ASMs are operating illegally and smuggle the precious stones to sell in neighboring countries, which is a very big loss for Malawi as we are unable to collect any royalties and taxes from these activities.
We hope this gemstone market centre will enable small scale miners find a good market for their gems right in the country.
He also said the government is conducting training workshops for ASMs in cutting and polishing of stones to assist them add value to the minerals and sell them at better prices.
Salima said his department has, therefore, procured equipment for cutting and polishing of stones which will be installed in its new head office currently under construction in Lilongwe.
He said: Soon the Ministry will send officers to Madagascar for training in gemstone evaluation and certification, which will add value to marketing standards.
In terms of training for the miners, we have worked with the Ministry of Trade to organize them into cooperatives because it is easy to offer training to cooperatives rather than individuals.
It is believed that impoverished Malawi, which largely depends on tobacco as a major foreign exchange earner, is losing millions of dollars in revenue due to smuggling of gemstones because of government’s failure to regulate ASM operations.
But Salima said his department is addressing the problem and has, among other things, engaged the police and Malawi Revenue Authority in sensitization campaigns to ensure that any export of minerals is backed by valid documents such as a valid Mining Licence or Reserved Mineral Licence, Inspection Certificate from Geological Survey Department and an Export Permit from the Commissioner of Mines.
The ASMs have been sensitized to conduct their business in a formal way by having relevant documents and conducting mining in sustainable manner by, among other things, observing occupation health and safety standards. There are also routine inspections of mines by the Department and the miners are encouraged to add value to the minerals locally,
Salima is, meanwhile, appealing to members of the public who have evidence of smuggling of stones to report and share information with the law enforcers, Immigration, Mines Department or Malawi Revenue Authority as smuggling is a criminal offence punishable by law.
Currently, there are reports of illegal mining and smuggling of gold in Makanjila area in Mangochi where foreigners have invaded Namizimu forest to mine alluvial gold, which is being smuggled into neighbouring Mozambique.
Salima said in addressing the situation, the department has sensitized the miners on the need for formal operations and has involved the police, Immigration Department, traditional and community leaders to form patrol teams to flush out the smugglers.
The community leaders have pledged not to harbor the illegal miners in their areas and the Department of immigration is involved to deal with illegal immigrants carrying out illegal mining,
Malawi is in the process of developing an artisanal and small-scale mining policy which seeks to guide and direct the artisanal and small-scale mining subsector by formalising and legalizing its activities.
Salima said the draft policy is currently under scrutiny by the Office of President and Cabinet, and the government will conduct a public launch to adopt the policy after the process.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 62 (June 2018).