The Government is crafting a strategy to improve gemstones production in the country as Zimbabwe seeks to benefit more from its mineral resources, a Cabinet minister has said.
“In July, we will be laying out a gemstones development plan expected to improve gemstones production in Zimbabwe,” Mines and Mining Development Minister, Winston Chitando, told Business Times.
Sandawana Mine in Mberengwa District, Midlands Province, used to be a big producer of gemstones such as emeralds in Zimbabwe but ceased operations in 2012.
It is estimated that there are also about 36 semi-precious minerals that include goshenite, alexandrite, chrysoberyl, iolite, emeralds and tourmaline, which are largely found in Karoi, Hurungwe, Mutoko, Mt Darwin, Zvishavane, Mutare, Rusape, and Odzi.
Analysts say the minerals could significantly help heal the frail economy, if harnessed productively.
The Government through the Minerals Marketing Corporation (MMCZ) has since liberalised gemstones trading by allowing individuals and corporates to participate in the buying and selling of the semi-precious stones as agents of the MMCZ.
A legal framework to empower small-scale miners to extract and trade in semi-precious gemstones was put in place in 2019, a move meant to boost the gemstones output.
However, MMCZ general manager, Tongai Muzenda, in December last year, expressed disquiet following revelations that international buyers and local players established a cartel which was conniving to bleed the government of millions of dollars.
Muzenda said there was rampant theft and illegal export of the country’s gemstones.
Consequently, the smuggling has jolted the government into action.
There are now plans to regulate the sector by issuing licenses to firms and small-scale buyers for purchasing gemstones.
Muzenda said the value of the country’s gemstone resources is estimated to be valued at US$20bn and the gemstones have the capability to overtake diamonds in revenue generation, if proper management was put in place.
MMCZ noted that some firms and individuals were mining and trading the gemstones without going through the normal processes that will ensure the country benefits.
MMCZ has now invited individuals and corporates to be considered as MMCZ sub-agents.
“Interested Zimbabwean citizens (individuals and corporates) are invited to submit expression of interest to be considered and licenced as MMCZ sub-agents to purchase coloured gemstones around the country and selling same through the corporation as per MMCZ Act, Chapter 21:04,” MMCZ said in a notice this week.