IT is disappointing that the Minister of Mines Christopher Yaluma has not held a single meeting with small scale miners to discuss various problems they were facing in the gemstone industry , but he is always in a hurry to attend the auctioning of Gemstones and visiting big mines like Kagem, the Emerald and Semi-precious Minerals Association of Zambia (ESMAZ) has complained .
ESMAZ General Secretary Victor Kalesha said the minister’s failure to hold meetings with small scale miners in the gemstone industry to discuss with them issues aimed at improving their operations was an indication that the government had literally neglected small scale miners in the gemstone industry.
Mr Kalesha said in an interview on Saturday that it was sad that instead of working together with small scale miners in finding solutions to the problems in the gemstone industry, government was more interested in working with big mines like Kagem and others.
“As small scale emerald mines, we are disappointed with the approach taken by government especially the minister of mines himself because he is not coming up with programmes that can guarantee the developing of the gemstone industry in future.
“There are no guidelines from his office even after giving him proposals on how best the sector can be developed. It is disappointing that the minister has not held a single meeting with small scale miners, but he is always in a hurry to attend auction sales of gemstones and visiting big mines like Kagem,” Mr Kalesha said.
Mr Kalesha said, as a way of increasing production in the gemstone area, there was need to subdivide Kagem and give it to other small local and foreign investors who would increase production.
He said Kagem had over 52 square kilometres of land which was very rich in emeralds and so if subdivided and given to other investors, the production levels would increase, and government would be receiving more revenue.
“We need to curb the sale of gemstones on the black market and increase production of gemstones in the gemstone area itself especially if Kagem which lies over 52 square kilometres and rich in emeralds is subdivided and given to other local and foreign investors who would increase production,” he said.
Mr Kalesha also said gemstone mining companies in Lufwanyama gemstone area were not contributing to infrastructure development such as road rehabilitation in the area because they were not on Title, but are just given a 10 year lease from the ministry of mines.
He appealed to the government to level the playing field with the base metal mining companies like Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) and Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) which are given 99 years.
“We maintain roads in the gemstone area, we pay tax although we are not on title. We pay area charges to the ministry of mines, but i will tell you that the reason why you don’t see much of gemstone mines contributing to infrastructure development in the area is because the mines that they own are not on Title.
“They are on 10 year lease from the Ministry of Mines. We appeal to government to level the playing field with the base metal mining companies like MCM and MCM and others which are given 99 years,:” he said.
Mr Kalesha said the small scale miners wanted the Ministry of Mines to put up guidelines that would curb the smuggling of gemstones.
He said it was important that the rampant smuggling of gemstones was curbed to bring sanity in the business of gemstones. He also said government should take a pro-active stance and start dialoguing with local small scale miners.