Kenya is losing billions of shillings through smuggling of minerals by foreigners in Taita-Taveta County.
Dealers mainly from Sri Lanka and Tanzania buy minerals and later smuggle them through undesignated routes along the porous Kenya-Tanzania border.
Senior Ministry of Environment officials said smuggling has reduced gemstones exports while tax evasion has increased, which must be addressed urgently.
The cartels also control market prices of gemstones, therefore, locking out most local dealers.
Records show that gemstones exported from Kenya such as ruby originate from the region. Out of 160 mining locations in the country, nearly 70 per cent are in Taita-Taveta.
Warden of Mines Moses Njeru said foreigners usually disguise themselves as tourists visiting Tsavo National Park only to engage in illegal mining.
Addressing a gemstone dealers meeting in Voi town accompanied by the County’s Geologist Edward Omito, Njeru said foreigners collude with local dealers to perpetrate the vice.
“Foreigners do not have gemstone dealer licences. They only have tourist visas and the Government will catch them,” warned Njeru, adding that some local dealers were facilitating illegal trade. “They hire local dealer’s offices to buy gemstones and later give 10 per cent of the sales while the Government earns nothing,” he said.
Njeru said minerals for export are verified by the Wardens of Mines in the presence of Export Customs officer at the nearest point of exit before being sealed and exports permits and other documents approved.
“He warned that registered gemstone dealers found colluding with unscrupulous foreigners to evade paying taxes would face the law.
“We want mining to be done in a diligent way,” he said. Njeru at the same time said the Government has cancelled one dealer’s licence after the owner was found perpetrating the vice. Three other mining licences are also under review.
“The complaints have come to our offices and the Government will not entertain criminal elements in the area. We’ll crash them for destroying mining business,” warned Taita DCIO Ms Jane Mukuria.
There are several licensed gemstone mines in the region that mainly produce green garnets, ruby, rodolite, topaz, green tomalite, tsavorite and tanzanite.
Copyright: Standard Newspaper