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Zambia launched its Export Diversification Strategy in Gold and Gemstone Mining, to guide the formalization of the sector and stop illegal trading of the commodities in the country.

The strategy was developed with support from the European Union through the COMESA Regional Integration Capacity Project (RICB) as well as other cooperating partners through the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and the TradeCom II Projects.

Zambia’s Minister for Mines and Minerals Richard Musukwa said the Strategy will help to curb illegal mining and selling of the minerals which are mostly smuggled out of the country by foreign nationals without paying any revenue to the government.The Strategy is also expected to lead the formalization of the sector which is mainly dominated by artisanal and small-scale miners who in most instances operate illegally.

In its quest to economically empower its citizens, the government of Zambia embarked on the formalization of mining activities through the formation and registration of cooperatives. These interventions are intended to promote transparent, secure and verifiable value and supply chains in line with the seventh National Development Plan which emphasizes the need to develop non-traditional mining sectors and the promotion of value chains. The government has gone further to declare gold as a strategic mineral that plays a important role in diversification, job creation and economic development of the country.

“Gold and gemstone mining in Zambia have been characterized by informal artisanal and small scale mining and trading activities resulting in huge losses to government revenue, environmental degradation, influx of foreign nationals, lack of tangible wealth creation and no impact on poverty reduction,” said Minister Musukwa.

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 the cooperatives. So far, 214 members of the cooperatives have been trained in various disciplines such as cooperative governance and management as well as gold safe mining practices.

Zambia Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry Christopher 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.In addition, it will facilitate the establishment of gold processing plants in areas where a resource has been defined, establishment of gold trading centers in strategic locations and providing equipment and mining technical services and cooperative governance to artisanal and small-scale miners.

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. “This is representative of the principles of regional integration that require Member States and regional organizations to work together in building the African Continental Free Trade Area,” he said.

Kipyego 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  for continued support to COMESA and its Member States through the COMESA Adjustment Facility. 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.