President Uhuru Kenyatta tours the Gemstone Cutting and Value Addition Centre in Voi Town during the commissioning of the facility.PHOTO:COURTESY
The Mining ministry says the Sh50 million gemstone cutting and value addition centre at Voi in Taita Taveta County will start operations in May.
The centre’s planned opening date is two months ahead of schedule, with the ministry previously having set a July deadline.
Cabinet Secretary Dan Kazungu said the new factory is aimed at increasing the value of minerals produced in the country and sold in other markets.
It will also be a collection centre for precious stones mined by small-scale miners in the coastal region, who have in the past got a raw deal from middlemen who buy the uncut stones for a song and sell them for a fortune in the international market.
The CS said the centre was 98 per cent complete. It will cut, polish, add value as well as package gemstones for sale in the international market.
He said the Voi centre is one of the four that the Government is putting up at a cost of Sh100 million.
He said the other four would be put up in different regions that have a high potential for production of precious stones.
“The structures are in place and we have placed orders for the equipment. Once we get these we will be ready to commission,” said Mr Kazungu.
“We are currently working on a management framework and putting people there. We expect to have it up and running by May.” President Uhuru Kenyatta recently toured the factory and unveiled a plaque ahead of its official opening during his recent tour of the Coast.
Small-scale miners have in the past received little support from the Government and recognition in law.
This has led to huge losses incurred at their level as well as tax revenues where minerals are shipped out of the country in illicit trade, with Africa losing upwards of $60 billion (Sh61 trillion) annually because of such trade.
CS Kazungu said other areas where the ministry is considering putting up such centres include the Rift Valley and Western regions where there are huge deposits of precious stones that have not been exploited.
“The Voi centre will serve the coastal belt, but there are other areas with precious minerals like Baringo, Samburu, and West Pokot and in Western,” he said.
“These centres will serve as refining centres but also collection and trading areas.”
He said the centres are among measures the country is putting in place to mainstream the mining sector to increase earnings for miners as well as revenues for the Government.
Mr Kazungu said mainstreaming artisanal miners had the potential to make mining one of the largest foreign exchange earners in the country. The value of minerals produced in the country is Sh24 billion.