THE National Lapidary Centre says it is ready to start marketing locally-produced gemstones including acting as an auction house.
Gemstone Processing and Lapidary Training Centre (GPLTC) director William Mumbi said although the institution has no manadate to act as an auction house, it was ready to help the country maximise the gains from its gemstone sector as long as Government allows it to undertake the marketing and auctioning process.
Mr Mumbi said the Ndola-based GPLTC was a skills providing institution, under the ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Early Education, which could fill the existing vacuum in the marketing of gemstones in the country.
"The institution is ready to spearhead the marketing of gemstones in collaboration with gemstone producers.
"If the Government mandates GPLTC to hold auctions, it is capable of conducting efficient and internationally recognised auctions," he said.
He noted that Zambia had successfully held a number of auctions locally for rough gemstones, especially emeralds.
Mr Mumbi, however, noted that auctions were held mostly by one or two mining companies, while other producers were using other means of marketing their gemstones.
He urged gemstone mining firms to understand that the best way to maximise their returns lay in value addition to their products before they are sold.
He said: "Furthermore, value addition will facilitate job creaction and increased revenue to the Government. The centre provides value addition."
Most of the leading gemstone mines in Zambia are operated by foreigners whose main interest was to provide raw materials for their cutting and polishing industries abroad
"Accordingly, they have no interest to have their products processed locally. This has negatively impacted on the availability of rough gemstones to this training institution, as well as some few operating lapidaries," he said.
Mr Mumbi said the best way for gemstone miners to maximise their returns was through adding value to their gemstones before sale.
"Value addition will facilitate job creation and increased revenue to the Government. The centre provides value addition services to gemstone producers," he said.
He said the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development should establish effective and appropriate monitoring mechanisms at every point of gemstone mining, processing and marketing to ensure that the true value was allotted at each stage.
He further said the Government should consider revisiting the policy which permits the export of rough gemstones so that the local gemstone mining sector and the country in general could benefit.