Local artisanal and small-scale miners (ASMs) are feeling the pinch of the knock-on effects of the coronavirus outbreak which has completely disrupted a global supply chain of their traded minerals.
With the outbreak leading to serious global travel bans and restrictions imposed by almost every country, it, therefore, implies that local miners cannot go to China or elsewhere to trade their minerals, and similarly their customers cannot come to Malawi either.
Random interviews conducted yesterday with representatives of small-scale mining companies shows that with China catering for about 80 percent of gemstones, minerals and handcrafts, the miners are in dilemma over the future of their businesses amid continued lockdown in China.
Nyasa Mining Cooperative chairperson Percy Maleta said in an interview that the company is hugely bruised by the outbreak, revealing that almost all their products go to China where the virus originated.
“Almost all our products go to China and as a cooperative, we normally have two functions which we participate as a company yearly where we exhibit our various products to network or hook more and serious partners and customers,” he said.
Maleta lamented that it was sad to hear that both events, which they have been participating since 2017, have been postponed due to the virus. The company’s core products are gemstones and jewelry related minerals.
Going forward, Maleta said the company has learnt a bitter lesson on the need to diversify their portfolio, saying they are now working on a plan to have at least half of their products value added to target the local market.
In a separate interview, Eastgate Mining Company executive director Emmanuel Tsogolani, whose company also plies in the trade of gemstone and tourmaline precious stones said most of their business deals have been cancelled.
Tsogolani estimate that prior to the outbreak in January this year, the company used to fetch between $3 000 and $5 000 per month, but now there is almost zero sales.
In the 2018/19 financial year, gemstone production increased from 2 000 tonnes in 2017 to 2 240 tonnes in 2018, raking in K6 billion in export values together with aggregate rocks.
The sector employs between 13 500 and 40 000 people in Malawi.