Miners in Kenya are calling out the President to commission the Voi Gemstone Value Addition Centre.
The mines led by Taita Taveta Artisanal Miners’ Association chairman David Nzowe made the plea and said the facility was long overdue and that they should be allowed to use it. Miners are currently counting losses due to over exploitation by middlemen who buy their precious stones at throwaway prices.
“This facility is yet to benefit our people. We are pleading with the President to commission it before exiting in August, because he is the one who started it,” said Nzowe.
Voi gem centre
Voi gem centre project began in 2015 and was completed in 2017.The project cost Sh 60million and it is one of the government’s mining flagship projects and the only facility in Kenya where value addition of minerals is to take place. However, little progress in the processing of gemstones has been made since then.
The centre upon commissioning will provide a wide range of services including stone cutting, polishing, banking, a gemstone laboratory and a buying center. Nzowe said the gemstone center shall benefit over 1500 small-scale miners across the mineral- rich county. The center will also ensure that minerals are processed, packed and labelled with all taxes paid before export.
“Hundreds of artisanal miners will get good returns once they start selling their gemstones through the center. It is the only way that people can benefit from natural resources,” he added.
Artisanal miner Mohammed Mzungu said residents are still wallowing in poverty, despite sitting on tonnes of minerals. Fast-tracking the opening of the gemology center would help the community, which is yet to benefit from the massive deposits of valuable minerals.
“How would you explain that people are still poor yet hundreds of uncut stones are sold here every day? The government has to cut off the cartel chain for us to benefit,” Mzungu said.
The region is endowed with tomes of numerous gemstones including tsavorite, ruby, chrome tourmaline, yellow tourmaline, red garnets, green garnets and tanzanite. Others are manganese, iron ore, marble and limestone.