• Centre to offer stone cutting and polishing, a gemstone laboratory, a buying and action centre.
• Is the only centre in the country where value addition will be done before sale of minerals.
The gemstone value addition centre is nearly complete and will be opened later this year, Mining PS John Omenge has said.
The Sh50 million mineral processing centre is in Voi, Taita Taveta county.
Omenge said it shall set the stage for government’s plan to improve the industry not only in Taita Taveta but also in the neighbouring counties of Makueni, Kitui, Kilifi and Kwale.
It is one of the government’s mining flagship projects.
“We are working to operationalise the value addition centre. We have most of the equipment that is required. It shall be commissioned this calendar year,” Omenge said.
The PS was reacting to local leaders' concerns over its delayed commissioning. He was speaking at the Kishushe Community Centre, where he met residents to discuss revenue sharing from iron ore mining.
Taita Taveta Deputy Governor Majala Mlaghui had accused the government of abandoning the centre, saying its completion was long overdue.
He said the centre should be officially opened to allow people from across the country to sell their gemstones.
It is the only facility in Kenya where value addition of minerals is to take place before miners sell their products.
Omenge said the department was preparing to conduct dry runs in the centre before it is commissioned.
He said the facility will provide a wide range of services, including stone cutting and polishing, a gemstone laboratory, a buying and action centre, and banking among others.
Taita Taveta is endowed with numerous gemstones, including Tsavorite, ruby, tourmaline, red garnets, green garnets, Tanzanite and iron ore. Others are manganese and limestone.
The county government has facilitated the formation of County Artisanal Miners Association and helped the members to elect representatives to the association's committee that will be commissioned at a later date.
(Edited by R.Wamochie)