Saturday, August 21, 2010
Mineral cutting centre inaugurated
THE government, through the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, has established a gemstone cutting and polishing centre which also doubles as mineral processing training institution in Arusha. Tanzania Gemological Centre (TGC) was officially opened on Friday with 14 trainees. It is set to expand in the near future to increase intake, more courses as well as undertake gemstone cutting and polishing. The Assistant Commissioner for Minerals, Mr Benjamin Mchwampaka, said a good number of local investors were setting up mineral processing firms in major towns such as Arusha, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza and the TGC training department intends to provide experts who will work for them. "This is more of a pilot project started to create trained manpower to undertake tasks of adding value to our minerals that were previously exported raw. "It is also a step towards the proposed mineral export processing zone which will be established in Mirerani hills of Simanjiro District," Mr Mchwampaka explained. "This centre is among the initiatives under the umbrella of Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project in Tanzania," said Mr Aloyce Tesha, the ministry's spokesperson, adding that the five- year project runs up to 2014. He pointed out that under the new mining policy, the state directs that all cutting and polishing should be performed in the country and that all minerals must be processed before export. Before the government banned the export of uncut tanzanite, the nation was reportedly losing 75 per cent of total revenue earned from the precious gemstones found only in Tanzania. Tanzanite cutting and polishing industry in India, was reportedly providing employment to over 200,000 people in the Jaipur State. Now the ministry, through the Arusha centre, intends to put a stop to that India business and create same employment opportunities to Tanzanians. But it is not just gemstones; the TGC also adds value to the rock debris that is usually discarded once precious minerals have been extracted. A visit inside the centre's workshop revealed busy people transforming mounds of rocks into valuable artifacts such as decorative plaques, sculptured images taking various animal shapes and other rock art items. "These are the same pieces of 'useless' stones that are usually thrown away as debris but here we turn them into extremely valuable rock art and a single such item can sell for up to US $ 100,000 when exported," said Mr Musa Shanyangi, a gemologist sent by the ministry to head the new centre.