The call for the formalization of operations of the Artisanal and Small Scale Miners(ASM) in the gemstone industry has gained traction, with the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) and the Ministry of Mines, throwing their full weight behind it, in a bid to attract gemstones which have been finding their way out of the country through illicit channels.
These organisations are collaborating in coming up with a strategy to bring the ASM into the mainstream industry as they target about $50 million in a mop-up exercise of gemstones in producing communities.
ASMs dominate the mining of semi-precious stones in Zimbabwe.
For long , they have been selling these gemstones informally to foreign buyers.
The ASMs in the gemstone sector have in the past decried their neglect, while their representatives have been lobbying the government to consider ways of bringing them into the mainstream.
They argued that ASMs are mining gemstones but the country cannot account for anything as their operations are mainly informal.
This had also given the rise in illicit activities, which were disenfranchising the country of the much-needed gemstone revenue, as individuals were selling their semi-precious stones to cartels.
These cartels have also been taking advantage of the informal nature of the ASMs, and lack of information and buying their gemstones overnight for way below their market value.
This is about to come to an end, according to representatives of the aforementioned organizations.
This is in line with global trends, where the global market is putting a huge emphasis on responsible sourcing of gemstones and minerals in general.
The principals of these organisations, from all provinces, met at Monomotapa hotel in Harare to chart the way forward and come up with a framework of how they will achieve this mammoth task.
MMCZ General Manager Mr Tongai Muzenda said his organization was fired up and had the zeal to put a halt to the losses the country has been experiencing as a result of these informal activities.
He said the mop-up exercise will reach all gemstone producing areas.
“It’s very good that we have attended this session. I’ve already spoken with my boss the Minister that the gemstone people, which are ZMF, MMCZ and Defold are going to be contributing a minimum of 50 million in 2022. The biggest objective is to make a lot of money for the gemstone industry. I’ve had several meetings and we want to have partnerships which create value,” said Mr Muzenda.
MMCZ’s Mr Chanda said formalization was the only way to curb illicit flows and harness the revenue within producing communities.
“We have not been active in terms of buying from the producing provinces. Our focus right now is to go out there to go and mop up all the gemstones that are out there so that they come into the formal sector through formal channels, which is MMCZ.”
He reiterated that the reason why some ASMs have been opting for illicit trades is that they have not been formalised.
So, as a way to counter this, the Ministry of Mines came up with a special purpose vehicle, Defold mining, meant to expedite the formalisation of these activities.
He said, “For you to come to MMCZ you must have some kind of identification that you have been allowed to mine. This is where Defold comes in. Remember the Defold project started with MMCZ we wanted to get involved in the mining structures so that we guarantee ourselves the gemstones. Now they are going to be on the production side, so once that is formalised then we can buy from them. In terms of responsible sourcing, we cant buy gemstones that we don’t know where they are coming from so we can’t sell them. So we need really to formalise them,”.
The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) said the formalisation has been long overdue and they are working overtime to push for this formalisation process for both the miners and the country to extract real value for this sector estimated to be worth over $20 billion.
The sector only managed to bring in a flimsy $400 000 in the past year.
Secretary for Semi-Precious and Gemstones Mr Privelage Moyo said as formalisation is being done, ZMF and its partners will open up markets in the provinces.
He said they intend to conduct awareness campaigns to encourage miners to sell their gemstones through the correct channels.
He said they also resolved to work on the expedition of the export process and reduce the turnaround time on exports.
“The issue is to have provincial and regional markets being opened. The first one will be opened in the Karoi, Hurungwe area. Then awareness campaigns will be also done concurrently with the opening of the markets,” said Moyo.
“So that at the end of the year sales will be recorded then at the same time, whilst production is optimized then marketing is established. Then also the need for the ease of export, so the turnaround on exports needs to be reduced so that we can see inflows of revenue so that we can surpass a 50 million mark for the gemstones”.