EconomyNext – Sri Lanka’s gem mining authority, the National Gem & Jewellery Authority (NGJA), has warned foreign companies against doing gem mining in the island without a license issued by it.
“Foreign companies that have minerals exploration licenses which are not issued by the National Gem & Jewellery Authority are not supposed to do any gemstone mining,” said K L D Dayasagara, deputy director general of the National Gem & Jewellery Authority.
“Minerals exploration licenses are issued by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau specifically to explore for minerals other than gemstones,” he explained.
“It is an offence to carry out gem mining without a valid mining license from the NGJA. Any company doing so will be dealt with severely,” Dayasagara told EconomyNext.com on the sidelines of the International Colored Gem Stones Congress that began in Colombo Sunday.
The event, which is attended by top international buyers, manufacturers, marketers and suppliers from all over the world, is organised by the International Colored Gemstone Association,a think-tank which serves the global colored gemstone industry.
Dayasagara said the NGJA has an understanding with the GSMB that no more exploration licenses will be issued in gem mining areas.
“We have a joint consultation process. If necessary we will deploy our supervisors to monitor the area.”
In March, the government announced that Sri Lanka’s new president has cancelled 16 mining licences issued by the previous government to foreign companies to search for blue sapphires and other gems.
The office of Maithripala Sirisena said permits granted to the unidentified companies were being withdrawn immediately to better protect the local mining industry, the French news agency AFP reported.
Sri Lanka has a substantial gem and jewellery industry and is known for some of the world’s biggest and most expensive precious stones.
But traditional gem mining is labour-intensive and the industry has resisted attempts to introduce new technology, fearing deeply unpopular job losses.
Earlier, an international gem mining firm, Gemfields Plc, which produces about a fifth of the world’s rough emeralds and is listed on the London Stock Exchange, had announced it had bought exploration licences in Sri Lanka.