Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka has expressed concern over the lacklustre gemstone business in Mzimba, where lack of a proper market is forcing smallscale miners to sell the minerals to foreign buyers at very low prices.
Speaking Tuesday when he visited the Mzimba Gemstone Mining Cooperative Society Limited, Msaka noted that there has been little progress since 1976 when the cooperative was established because miners “are just giving away the minerals to foreigners.”8
“The challenge I see is of serving our gemstones at prices not commensurate with their value. They key constraint is because we do not have an established gemstone market where values and prices of stones is regulated by international standards.
“At that market government is going to get revenue, but more importantly, I want the miners to develop, they have to change. Mining is the future of our country,” he said.
Msaka also stressed the need for the cooperative to start adding value to their products so that they make more money. He promised that government will support them on this cause.
“Look at South Africa, the country is developed because minerals were put to good use. These foreigners are coming here because they know you sell the minerals at cheap prices. Let me remind you that God gave us these minerals, and each day we give them away at cheap prices we should know that God will not replace what we have given out,” he said.
Jerrington Gama, chairperson of the cooperative, admitted that there has been little progress in the district, and that miners are now frustrated.
“We are still using archaic ways of mining like using shovels, and most people are ignorant of the mining business. Even when selling, we sell to foreigners who offer very little prices, and it is difficult for us.
“We are also failing on value addition because we do not have the expertise, for instance to make jewels or rings, and to get other accessories for such a production requires money, but we don’t have that money. So it is frustrating,” he lamented.
At the moment, many Chinese and Zambian nationals have flooded the northern district looking for Rose Quartz, a mineral used in the production of container glass, flat plate glass, specialty glass, and fiberglass.
Buyers are paying K90 per kilogramme of Rose Quartz, but in South Dakota, small chips of Rose Quartz that are tumbled and polished have a retail value of $10 to $12 per pound.
Mzimba hosts vast amounts of gemstones’ deposits and there are a lot of mining activities taking place in the district.
Some of stones mined in the district include aquamarine, amethyst, garnets, citrine, tourmaline, quartz, epidote and apatite.