Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association (SLGJA) yesterday welcomed a directive supposedly made by President Maitrhipala Sirisena to prohibit foreign gem mining companies carrying out mining activities in Sri Lanka by on their own or through local proxies.
“The Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association has welcomed a directive by President Maithripala Sirisena to prohibit and protect the local gem industry from foreign gem mining companies, a move if not thwarted would see over 1.5 million people affected,” a SLGJA statement said.
“Hot on the heels of this stern directive by the President a Task Force comprising of Government officials will be appointed to monitor and prevent entry of foreign companies from getting involved in gem mining locally,” it added.
According to SLGJA, the President during a discussion with industry stakeholders last Friday was alerted of moves by foreign companies who intended on mining gems through local companies who served as proxies.
It was revealed that 100 acres of land has been purchased by the companies in Dodampe, Paradise Estate in Kuruwita, and in the Karangoda area in the district alone.
Chairman of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) Asanka Welagedara is also said to have given a detailed report to the President cautioning the potential dangers of foreign companies which have already begun spreading their interest territorially.
“Stakeholders in the industry were increasingly concerned following a recent announcement in a Singapore auction that unpolished Sri Lankan gems would be made available at next year’s auction,” SLGJA said.
The SLGJA statement quoted International Coloured Gemstones Association (IGA) regional Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Altaf Iqbal as saying, “Allowing large scale foreign mining in Sri Lanka could impact nearly 600,000 miners, lapidarists, brokers, wholesalers, jewellers, and retailers - people who are directly employed in the industry.”
Iqbal added that Sri Lanka uses traditional mining methods in very sustainable manner through small scale operations bound by strict green mining regulations.
However, he noted that, “large scale mining, such as the Mozambique ruby operation, could flood the market with over supply. The rarity factor would be seriously affected, if this should happen.”
“Several international gem dealers have voiced their concerns about foreign companies being involved in operations locally, “as they are holding large stocks of sapphires and fear the fallout from potential supply increases.”
Iqbal has conveyed these sentiments through ICA, which the SLGJA is a member of. ICA has widely shared the bulletin with their members globally.