Kenya will open a Sh50 million mineral centre in Voi, Taita Taveta to add value to gemstones before selling them abroad in raw form.
Voi sub county commissioner Joseph Mtile said plans are at an advanced stage to open the centre that will transform the gemstone industry not only in Taita Taveta, but also in neighbouring counties like Makueni, Kitui and Kwale.
This will set the stage for the government’s move to ban the export of uncut gemstones that had been set for 2018.
“This will enable artisanal and small scale miners especially those we used to call ‘zururas’ at the coastal belt to access international markets. They will fetch good prices for their stones,” he said.
Taita Taveta is endowed with various gemstones including Tsavorite, rubi, tourmaline, red garnets, green garnet, Tanzanite and iron ore.
Artisanal and small- scale miners in the county said poor earnings had led some of them to quit the mining sector.
The quantity of uncut gemstones has dropped from 518 tonnes in 2013 to 124.3 tonnes in 2017 worth Sh238 million, down from Sh936 million the previous year.
Kenya produced 22, 956 carats of cut or processed gemstones in 2017 worth Sh128.6 million, according to the mining ministry
Mr Mtile said the centre will provide a wide range of services including stone cutting and polishing, banking, a gemstone laboratory, a buying centre, among others. It is one of the government’s mining flagship projects in the country.
Mr Mtile said consequently the facility will eliminate brokers and mining cartels who dictate prices of the stones.