The third Gemcanton high-grade emerald auction opened in Lusaka yesterday, with 34 bidders, among them Indians and Israelis floating interest in acquiring the locally mined gem.
At the opening of the auction, which ends tomorrow, Gemcanton Investment Holdings chief executive officer Abdul Ba commended the Government for ensuring that the gems were auctioned locally.
"This is a positive move for the country because it will ensure that the benefits of the locally owned resources remained with the people of Zambia," Mr Ba said.
He commended Government for ensuring a secure business environment in the country as this had enabled his firm to motivate and sustain a stable work force.
At the same event, Mines and Minerals Development Minister Richard
Musukwa bemoaned the fact that out of 1,000 mining licenses, only less than 30 were operational.
Mr Musukwa said this was not economically beneficial for the country because mining was still a viable sector in sustaining the country's social growth.
He said the continued holding of emerald auctions locally by Gemcanton and other firms was a sign of investor confidence in Zambia's economy.
"The auction also signifies the potential of gemstones to generate revenue for the country other than the traditional copper asset.
"Mining has been and will continue to be the anchor of the economy, supporting growth and social development amongst our people," he said.
He said Government would continue pushing for the diversification of the sector away from copper, to attract more investment and sustain the viability of the mining sector.
Mr Musukwa also encouraged Gemcanton to promote corporate social responsibility programmes in its areas of operation.