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Company to cutoff exploitative middlemen in artisanal mining

Artisanal miners in Taita Taveta can now look forward to brighter fortunes following the entry of a Geneva-based gemstone company, Nadra Stone, which promises to cut off exploitative middlemen and open up an avenue to the international market.

Speaking during a courtesy call on Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime, Nadra Stone’s lead representative in Kenya, Betsy Makila, said they are looking to open up a direct link to the Geneva mineral market for local small-scale gemstone miners who have suffered at the hands of predatory and exploitative middlemen.

“We’re here with the hope to assist open a direct connection to the lucrative Geneva mineral market for small-scale gemstone miners from this county, who have and continue to be exploited by predatory middlemen,” said Betsy.

According to Betsy, Nadra Stone’s entry strategy is multi-pronged with a mission to train, empower, and build capacity among small-scale artisanal miners and a long-term goal to build a sustainable market for their products.

To paint a grim picture of the pain and exploitation the hapless miners go through, Nicolas Autin, a gemologist and stone cutter based in Switzerland, revealed that gemstones from the county change hands hundreds of times before reaching the final destination, a chain that eats heavily into the amount paid to the small miner.

“Before a gemstone from this county reaches the final stop of the international market, it passes through 200 different hands with each taking their cut and eating into what is paid to the poor miner,” said Autin.

According to a survey report “Fair Trade and Mining Cooperative Project Taita-Taveta County, Mwatate,” by Nicolas Autin and Betsy Makila, groups of small-scale miners come together to exploit the gemstones without licenses, proper equipment, and gear; practices that put their health and lives at grave risk.

The survey notes that the poor miners have to pay 35 percent of their output to a CBO for the lease of the mining ground, and another 30 percent to a financier who bankrolls their daily expenses, leaving them with 35 percent of the output share after brokers take their share.

According to Governor Andrew Mwadime, the county is taking stock and registering mining Community-based organizations (CBOs) to bring them under an umbrella mining cooperative society for easy access to credit finances, market, and better prices for their gemstones.

The national government on its part to help the artisanal miners kicked off the construction of the 60-million state-of-the-art Voi gemstone Value Addition Center in 2018, which now helps with grading, identification, cutting, and pricing of precious stones.

In a recent visit to the Taita Taveta iron ore mining site at Kishushe and a meeting with artisanal miners’ leaders at Voi, Cabinet Secretary for Mining and Maritime Affairs Salim Mvurya said plans are underway to fully open the value addition center before the end of February 2023.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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