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Sri Lanka President says to permit gem mining in plantation company land

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had decided to give the go ahead for gem industry to mine lands under plantations companies, following a meeting with the sector stakeholders, his office said.

Sri Lanka has leased tea, rubber and coconut lands to around 20 regional plantations companies which have been privatized and listed on the stock exchange.

The lands are on long lease to the companies.

Earlier attempts to mine the land have been met with protests.

A decision had been made “to remove the barriers that had obstructed the release of uncultivated lands with gem deposits belonging to plantation companies and to take over control of these lands for the benefit of the mining industry,” the President’s office said.

The statement did not say whether the plantations companies would be allowed to mine the lands or the state would expropriate the leases of the estates involved and give the mining rights to third parties.

Firms such as Kahawatte Plantations are in gem rich areas.

Under Sri Lanka law the government has to issue licenses to mine.

The decision came after 14 proposals were submitted by State Minister Lohan Ratwatte to boost the gem and jewelry industry.

President Rajapaksa had asked that gem mining licenses issue been speeded up with all related institutions being brought to one place.

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Minister Ratwatte had also asked to allow high priced gems unique to other countries and not found in Sri Lanka to be imported for jewelry making.

President Rajapaksa had asked state banks to give a one million rupee loan at a 4 percent rate to jewelers to buy gold, the statement said.

President had also ordered that a 15 percent import duty on gold to be removed and a 14 percent income tax on the gem and jewelry industry to be also lifted. (Colombo/Sept08/2020)