Gemfields plc which operates the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia today opened an auction of high-quality emeralds in Lusaka, the second sale to be held by the company in the capital this calendar year.
The five-day auction is being attended by some 40 gemstone buyers, including three Zambian bidders who will spend the week appraising 18 lots of rough higher grade emeralds before placing their bids on Friday.
All the emeralds on offer at the auction were mined at Kagem’s mine in Lufwanyama, the single largest producing emerald mine in the world.
The auction was opened by Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Christopher Yaluma.
Mr Yaluma commended Kagem for including Zambia on the circuit and reiterated the government’s commitment to developing the gemstone sector as a major contributor to economic development through generation of tax revenue, employment and poverty alleviation.
“Zambia is among the major producers of emerald in the world, and as such, the Zambian gemstone sub-sector should be a major contributor to the global market,” Mr Yaluma said.
He said at no time has the Zambian government ever banned the export of emeralds by Kagem and any other producers in Zambia.
“I need to emphasise that the gemstones that will be auctioned this week will be exported to respective countries of buyers, according to the existing export guidelines,” he said.
Kagem Chairman William Nyirenda emphasised the company’s determination to develop the sector in a transparent and accountable manner.
“We are committed to the principle and concept of willing buyer and willing seller and there being the best practice concept and fair play in arriving at a fair value for the quality of the product offered. We are also committed to a free market environment without interference. Over-regulation sometimes, if not often, stifles growth and innovation,” Mr Nyirenda said.
The auction was originally due to be held in Singapore in June but was relocated to Lusaka at the request of the ministry amid uncertainty over the status of gemstone exports from Zambia.
Gemfields and Kagem are in an on-going dialogue with Ministry over this issue.
Gemfields Chief Executive Officer Ian Harebottle said discussions with the Zambian government are continuing over the legality of gemstone exports and that his company is on the right track.
Mr Harebottle said this is hugely encouraging and he thanked the Zambian authorities for the open and professional manner in which they maintained dialogue with his company.
“Discussions are proving positive and we are confident that we will be able to clarify the uncertainly and resume selling to international customers on a global basis in the near future. In the meantime, we hope that this week’s auction in Lusaka attracts strong positive interest from buyers and enables us to continue our drive to increase the demand for Zambian emeralds on the world market,” he said.
An auction of Kagem’s lower quality emeralds was held in Lusaka in April, raising US$15.2 million.
That revenue reflected the elevated quantity of emeralds offered for sale but also saw a 7 percent
decline in average per-carat prices for lower quality auctions.