By Sammy Lutta
The Turkana county government plans to promote value added gemstone mining to enable local artisanal miners get higher income from the valuable stones.
County mineral resources chief officer Moses Natome said the county is endowed with precious and high valuable stones such as sapphire, rhodolite garnet and jade.
Mr Natome said the devolved unit is in consultation with State Department of Mining to establish a gemstone value addition centre.
“The centre will transform the gemstone industry in Turkana county and beyond while at the same time supplementing the Voi Gemstone Centre in revamping the mining industry in Kenya,” the county official said.
Mr Natome said active exploration of all precious stones in the county will sustain the centre with raw materials “over a commercially viable time frame”.
Local miners, he noted have for years been subjected to unscrupulous dealers due to lack of information on the value of gemstones.
Voi Gemstone Centre manager Edward Omito said collaboration between the county government of Turkana and his centre will expose local artisanal miners to basic knowledge on geology, stones identification and appraisals as well as pricing in the local and international markets.
Acting director for mineral promotion and value addition in the State Department of Mining, Evans Masachi said Turkana is on the right track in ensuring artisanal miners do not drop out of the industry due to ignorance.
Mr Masachi said the national government is also promoting value added gemstone exports to boost foreign exchange earnings. “A majority of gemstones across the country are currently exported in raw form denying the country revenues. Modern value addition centres in counties rich in precious and high valuable stones will enhance the value of the stones and hence better prices at export markets,” he said.