Controversy brewing in sapphire paradise

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Government confirms foreigners not permitted to mine gems in Sri Lanka

The government of Sri Lanka has sought to resolve a brewing controversy in the gem industry here, offering assurances that foreign nationals and overseas companies are not allowed to engage in gem mining activity in the country.
“Foreigners and foreign companies are not allowed to mine gemstones in Sri Lanka or participate in land auctions for gem mining and related activities,” the government’s minister of Environment and Renewable Energy, Susil Premajayantha announced in early October.
The assurance to the industry was given following representations made to the Minister and government by the country’s leading national associations comprising miners and dealers who are agitated by an announcement made by UK-based company, Gemfields Plc. In news releases issued on September 15, 2014, Gemfields’s announcement (currently posted on its website http://www.gemfields.co.uk) stated that the company had entered into joint venture partnerships to acquire 75 percent of 16 (gemstone) exploration licenses. The announcement said Gemfields wants to apply in Sri Lanka the exploration and mining knowledge gleaned from its operations in Zambia for emeralds, and Mozambique for rubies.
Representatives of Sri Lanka’s leading industry associations expressed their concerns to Minister Premajayantha at a meeting held on September 19. At the meeting the Minister assured the gathering that the government will ensure the wellbeing of the local industry.
Subsequently in a statement, issued by the government’s National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA), the Minister said he “disallows the issuance of licences to foreign individuals or foreign organizations for the purpose of gemstone mining in Sri Lanka.” The statement said the Minister’s directive further prohibits joint ventures, partnerships, amalgamations and alliances inclusive of all other manifestations of business agreements established for this purpose.
It added that the Minister has instructed NGJA to further strengthen the existing procedures and regulations governing gemstone mining activity in Sri Lanka “to thwart the remotest possibility of gemstone mining by non-nationals.”

by Jennifer Henricus
Specialist gem and jewellery writer

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