Namibia is known internationally as a land of many mineral resources. Diamonds are mined along the coast and offshore near Orangemund, and the country is endowed with a variety of colored gemstones, more than 50 percent of which are of gem quality. Some of the most common minerals are tourmaline, garnet, topaz, aquamarine, heliodor, morganite, blue lace agate, blue chalcedony, chrysocolla and pietersite.
In Namibia, as in many other African countries, gemstone mining is done largely on an artisanal basis, with workers collecting and digging in shallow and unstructured pockets. Official figures are therefore difficult to come by, but total annual production can be estimated at 500 tons of rough colored gemstones.
In Namibia, all mineral rights are ultimately vested in the state, but ownership is with private individuals and companies, which are protected by confidentiality laws. At the same time, the government of Namibia is making a conscious effort to use gemstone resources to combat poverty. To this end, the Ministry of Mines and Energy has put mechanisms in place to allow for the greater participation of indigenous people in the mining industry.
These programs are facilitated by the Sysmin project fund (the Minerals Development Fund), which was established with financing from the European Union. This fund gives financial and technical assistance to aspiring small-scale miners.
The government has also been encouraging people from mineral-rich areas to take the initiative to form associations that will serve as more efficient channels for government aid. The Ministry of Mines and Energy has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to beneficiation in the industry, promising jobs and other economic benefits to the local population as a result of the revamped mineral policy.
One way in which the government tries to help the gemstone mining industry is by drafting high-resolution digital maps. Unfortunately, as a result of the widespread freebooting artisanal mining system and other difficult economic conditions, the government has encountered a lot of technical challenges. Nevertheless, serious investors can obtain regional and other high-resolution maps for a fee from the Geological Survey Directorate, which conducts surveys, mapping and digitizing of all information for clients and investors.
The best maps are those drafted by large, privately owned mining companies, some of which have tried very hard to provide the Ministry of Mines and Energy with information regarding their mining locales and
Some of the larger gemstone mines and mining companies in Namibia are as follows:
Ysterputs: Situated in the southern Karas region, this mine is owned by George Swanson, who is based in South Africa. Since the 1970s, the mine has produced fine blue lace agate, a kind of stone unique to this area. The mine has a massive deposit of this rare mineral and expects to work it for more than 20 years to come. Average annual production is around 150,000 kg, most of which is exported first to South Africa for polishing and then to the consumer markets.
The Troye Mine, situated in the Okahandja district of the Otjizondjupa region, is run by a South African company called Top Stone Industry and Mining. It is the sole producer of blue chalcedony in Namibia. Annual production is around 60,000 kg.
North Trade Namibia has a number of mines spread all over the country, the most significant of which are located in the Kunene and Karas regions. These two mines produce blue sodalite and pagoda stones, respectively. The company’s total annual production is around 150,000 kg.
Pietersite, Platveld and Otjua Mines: These three mines are owned by Hoanib Exploration, a company owned by Mr. Dewald Kleynhans, who is based in the coastal town of Swakopmund. The Pietersite and Platveld Mines, both of which are in the Erongo region, produce pietersite and amethyst, respectively, and have a combined annual production of around 70,000 kg. The Otjua Mine is in the Kunene region.
DML Mining extracts beryl for export in the Maltahohe district. Apart from the above–mentioned mines, there are a number of small companies that mine a variety of stones, such as garnet, tourmaline, rose quartz, topaz and aquamarine. Examples are the Parrots Mine, Global Mining Co., Usakos Tourmaline and Manger Mining Co. The annual production of high and medium grade garnet from the Parrot Mine is around 200 kg. The Igneous Mining Project produces more than 5,000 kg of amethyst a year.
Article reproduced courtesy of the International Colored Gemstone Association (ICA). The ICA is the world's single international umbrella organization that represents and guards the interests of colored gemstone miners, manufacturers, and dealers. ICA has members in 42 countries worldwide, and is considered the prime organization that serves the global interest of the colored gemstone trade. As such, ICA’s members and their companies are among the leading gemstone miners, manufacturers, dealers, and wholesalers of the colored gemstone trade. In addition, among its associate members are the gemstone trade's prime gemologists, gemological institutes, and national trade associations.
Visit www.gemstone.org for more information.