The Zambian government has launched the export diversification strategy for gold and gemstone to formalise artisanal small-scale mining and trading activities. This is envisaged to generate revenue from precious metals.
Launching the strategy, the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Christopher Yaluma said illegal trading and mining activities in gold have resulted in huge revenue losses, environmental degradation, an influx of foreign nationals but with a lack of tangible wealth creation for locals.
Mr. Yaluma said it is for this reason that Cabinet in December 2017 directed the two ministries to strategies on a comprehensive mechanism to formalise gold mining and trade in the country.
He said with support from the European Union under the Southern Africa Development Community trade-related facility project, equipment was provided for artisanal and small-scale miners at a cost of US$70,000.
Mr. Yaluma said the strategy provides strategic interventions including setting up value addition parks for gold and gemstone lapidary shops in Lusaka, Copperbelt and Livingstone in Southern Zambia.
And Minister of Mines and Mineral Development, Richard Musukwa said Zambia has reported increase in gold occurrences in the sub-sector mainly exploited by artisanal and small-scale miners who mostly operate illegally.
“Gold is smuggled out of the country mostly by foreign nationals without paying any revenue, thus denying the country of the much-needed revenue,” Mr Musukwa said.
He said Government wants to see gold sold and mined safely and emphasised that pick and shovel mining will not enhance the lives of miners.
Mr. Musukwa disclosed that with support from the COMESA RICB and the SADC Trade Related Facility Project, the Ministry of Mines has attained key milestones such as geological assessment of the areas to delineate economical mineralization that would underpin the project, training of cooperative members and purchasing of equipment for use by 214 members of the cooperatives.
Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) Assistant Secretary-General Kipyego Cheluget said the launch of the Strategy was a culmination of the joint effort of COMESA, building on efforts made by SADC.
Mr. Cheluget noted that the dependence on primary commodity production and exportation exposes the country to commodity shocks, price fluctuations and declining terms of trade.
He said this results in a country’s foreign exchange reserves and ability to have funds for imported inputs becoming subject to instability and uncertainty.
“We believe that for the region to fully exploit its potential, the facilitation of a conducive environment in high value products as well as in value addition is important,” Mr. Cheluget said.
The Assistant Secretary-General urged the Zambian Government to ensure that the local communities are not exploited but supported to reap the full benefits of the minerals value addition.
He commended the European Union (EU) for continued support to COMESA and its Member States through the COMESA Adjustment Facility adding that so far, the EU has provided funding of €111 million with total support to Zambia of €5.8 Million covering leather, textiles and clothing value chains.
ZCCM-IH Chief Executive Officer Mabvuto Chipata assured the nation that through Zambia Gold Company, the investment holding firm will continue to play a pivotal role in realising gold potential in Zambia.
Rufunsa District Commissioner Judith Chama is confident that gold trading by artisanal and small-scale miners will create jobs for the locals and change the face of the district.
Mrs Chama, however, expressed concern at fatalities at the gold mining sites due to lack of proper mining equipment.
The two ministers also handed over gold panning certificates to mining cooperatives.