Gemology Centre, transparency necessary in rebuilding Gemstone sector


Zimbabwe needs to improve its regulations on gemstone mining and trading at the same time creating a Gemology Centre which will be responsible for certifying and pricing Gemstones in order to increase our exports of the stones back to yesteryear’s heights, legendary Gemstone miner Mr. Jean Rheiner has said.

Rudairo Dickson Mapuranga

A Gemology Centre is an office that supports the efforts of small-scale miners and traders and allows the Government to capture the true value of its gemstones based on international guidelines.

The country has since lost its place as one of the largest suppliers of the world’s aquamarine and topaz among other stones’ spot due to unclear and straining regulations taking an exporter over 2 weeks to process papers yet taking less than 4 hours in other countries in the region.

In Zimbabwe, an exporter will pass through more than 10 offices and waits for 2 weeks or more for a permit yet it is attainable in a single day in other countries.

Rheiner said it was important for the country to rebuild its gemstone sector back to yesterday’s heights as this will help the country in achieving President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s vision for the mining sector becoming an upper-middle-income earner by 2023.

He said it was of great importance for the government to facilitate the growth of the sector through opening schools that teach and encourage citizens to impress their gemstone wealth and safeguard it from smugglers.

“When I came in the 1980s, Zimbabwe was very big on aquamarine and topaz production. How can we rebuild that today?  It has to be redone but in redoing it has to be facilitated of course.  In Madagascar, there are schools which teach them how to do it.” Rheiner said.

Rheiner lamented the failure by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) to have a simple process for gemstone exporters. The process takes more time than in other countries leading to exporters getting frustrated thereby choosing other destinations.

According to Rheiner, for the growth and development of the gemstone mining and exporting sector, a Gemology Centre was of uttermost importance. The Gemology centre will function better separated from MMCZ but supported by the government.

“We need to have a gemological Centre in Zimbabwe. The centre needs to be supported by the government away from MMCZ as in Afghanistan which is being led by Zimbabwean Gemologist Clever Sithole. “he said.

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According to one of Zimbabwe’s finest young Gemologist Mr Maison Phiri, a gemology centre was the way to go in supporting and establishing the gemstone sector. However, trade policies and mining laws are to be favourable for the gem industry.

Phiri said the focus for the country should be building such an initiative in order to become a regional centre for gemstone trading.

“I cannot say detached or not detached from MMCZ, however, it is true that a Gemology Centre is the way to go. But that is not just the issue. It starts with the change of gemstone mining and trade policies. We need to stand up to the table and compete with Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa policies in terms of market attractiveness. Next, we need to identify what this Gemstone Centre shall be capable of doing. If it is done well, it can actually become a regional Centre. Because this Gemology Centre as I envision it is absent in the whole of SADC.” Maison said.

According to Phiri, the export procedure needs to be shortened and cheapened in relation to other minerals simply because the supply is the artisanal miner who sometimes produces 2 cups of gemstones and maybe a value of US$100 but still has a market. Most of these miners do not have tenure and need an incentive to achieve sustainable mining. On the side of buyers, the export procedure is long and buyers would rather buy gemstones in Zambia than in Zimbabwe because of this. We need to reduce the persecution of gemstone dealers by relaxing some of our regulations he concluded.

This article first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Mining Zimbabwe Magazine

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