Living Room Session: Colored Gemstone Mining in Zambia

Jun 26, 2020

Thank you for joining us in our most recent Living Room Session on colored gemstone mining in Zambia with guests Pauline Mundia, Patricia Inonge Zita Mweene, and Susan Wheeler!

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Mining of colored gemstones is an important part of Zambia’s history, culture, economy, and future. Emerald and Amethyst are the main gemstones mined in Zambia with approximately 400 small scale emerald mining operations and between 70-80 small scale amethyst mining operations there. Gemstone mining is done in remote areas and is often the only source of income in the vicinity.
  • The Zambian gemstone ecosystem (mining, grading, cutting, polishing, jewelry making, trading) is well positioned to benefit more at each part of the process. There are trained cutters looking for work and skilled jewelers able to create. This session revealed the need to create more business to business relationships.
  • Pauline Mundia shared insight on the role of women in gemstone mining. As a traditionally male dominated industry, she noted women did not just face challenges in mining, but also breaking down gender norms in policy. She helped unite women miners into the Association of Zambian Women in Mining in order to have a unified voice and advocate for women in mining.
  • Pauline and Patricia both acknowledged the potential of the mining sector to positively impact Zambia’s economy through trade and tourism.
  • It is Pauline’s hope that artisanal and small-scale miners can graduate to more mechanized practices and professionalize over time, ultimately with the goal of creating more revenue from the gem trade through export taxes, mineral royalties, and job creation.
  • Patricia Mweene would like to see that the jewelry industry ensures that Zambia’s resources actually contribute to the development of extractive communities.

“I would really like to see more gemstones cut and polished in Zambia, I would like to see Zambian mining engineers get involved in solving artisanal mining challenges. A lot of my inspiration comes from my culture and heritage. I use that to connect to Zambia….For me overall with what I am doing its really connecting all the dots in the value chain from the mine to the cutters to me as a jeweler and also mentoring other jewelers” - Patricia Inonge Zita Mweene

  • Value Addition. Rather than exporting stones as rough, Zambia can better benefit from the gem trade through cutting and polishing locally and exporting finished stones. This can also help create a market locally and enhance the linkage between tourism and gemstone mining.
  • COVID-19: The impact of COVID has been severe. With no international buyers traveling to Zambia, revenues from gemstone sales have significantly decreased. Many miners have stopped working due to the pandemic. For some of those who can work, lack of food is hurting their ability to do labor intensive mining work.
  • In response to COVID-19, Susan Wheeler - Responsible Jewelry Transformative, Jessica Hudson - The Nomad Jeweler, and Monica Gichuhi - African Gem Exhibition and Conference (AGEC) have established a virtual buying program - Virtu Gem. Anyone from around the world can buy Zambian colored gemstones in rough or cut forms. In addition to offering a way to keep gemstone sales going, this initiative also provides food and masks to mining communities! The miners have been amazingly willing and trusting in transitioning from in-person trading to a virtual trading platform - showing that it is possible to create new pathways for the entire industry to work more collaboratively and engage with trading closer to the source.

Find out more HERE

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RESOURCES:
Ethical Metalsmiths Social Justice Resources
Ethical Metalsmiths Covid-19
Ethical Metalsmiths list of businesses still shipping (contact [email protected] to be given permission to edit)

SUPPORT:
Gem Legacy
•Gemstone Supply Chain Action Scheme
Better Without Mercury

LEARN:
COVID-19 updates/guidance Alliance for Responsible Mining
Impacts of COVID-19 on ASM Gold Mining
•Alliance for Responsible Mining
GEF: Monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 on artisanal and small-scale gold mining
DELVE: Impacts of COVID-19 on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining: Insights from the ground

Thank You to Our Guests:

Pauline Mundia
Currently elected Secretary-General of the Association of Zambian Women in Mining, Vice President of the Federation of Small Scale Mining Associations of Zambia and vice president of African Women In Mining Association - Southern African Chapter. Also serving as Board Member of the Zambia Extractive Council representing the interest of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining.

Patricia Inonge Zita Mweene
Patricia is the founder and designer of Inonge Zita - a sustainable fine jewellery brand specializing in Zambian gemstones. The brand was started by Patricia as a way of contributing to the development of the gem cutting and jewellery manufacturing industry in Zambia. Patricia was born in Lusaka, but grew up on the mining town of Ndola. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Susan Wheeler is the founder and designer of Susan Wheeler Design Jewelry. Devoted to furthering the movement of responsible jewelry, she is also founder of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference and is a board member of Ethical Metalsmiths. Most recently, Susan has founded a nonprofit centered on responsible practices, the Responsible Jewelry Transformative and leads the Zambia Gemstone Initiative. Additionally Susan is on the Steering Committee and Lead on Initiatives for The Jewelry Industry Summit and is the Vice President of the Chicago Chapter of The Women's Jewelry Association.

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