LARGE quantities of precious stones are being mined illegally without the knowledge of government, says Gemstones and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (GAWUZ) president Sifuniso Nyumbu.Nyumbu, in an interview, said accountability for precious stones in the country had continued to be a source of worry.He said there was need for the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) to capture all mining companies operating in the country and ensure they pay necessary taxes.“The main issues of accountability are non-payment of tax by some of these mines. When you talk of illegal mining, you are not talking of smaller quantities that are being siphoned. We are talking of large quantities. And these large quantities, once sold, money goes into pockets or into accounts of people that don’t have any appreciation for institutions like ZRA,” Nyumbu said.“This is where government has to take a deliberate policy to ensure that ZRA is empowered to have access to all geographical areas, all corners of this country where mining is taking place, so that at the end of the day, the government can have access or can have some cash that can be realised from precious stones mined in this country,” Nyumbu said.
He said illegal mines remained a hazard to the surrounding communities.
Nyumbu urged the government to formalise the illegal precious stone mines so that they could also be taxed.He said craters left behind by illegal mining activities were a danger to the environment, especially that environmental impact assessments were usually not done for such ventures.“In those craters, there would be uranium which would be a health hazard not only to passersby but even the surrounding communities within those mining areas,” said Nyumbu.“This is the first call that we are trying to make. Let them (illegal gemstone mines) be looked at and be formalised into some kind of grouping and be registered at least with PACRA, ZRA. Let them also have TPIN numbers and any other documentations that are required.”