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Tourmaline – a semi-precious stone worth mining

 By Features Reporter – Thursday 16 January 2020

HARARE (Mining Index) – THERE is great potential to extract tourmaline and other semi-precious stones that remain under explored in most provinces of Zimbabwe, whose value is estimated to be approximately US$20 billion.

Tourmaline is found in seven provinces of Zimbabwe including Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Midlands, Matebeleland North, Matebeleland South and Masvingo.

It is estimated Zimbabwe hosts nearly 36 semi-precious minerals that include tourmaline, goshenite, chrysoberyl and lolite. These are mostly found in Karoi, Hurungwe, Mutoko, Mt Darwin, Zvishavane, Mutare, Rusape and Odzi.

Mineral marketing authorities in Zimbabwe have been facing challenges in monitoring these coloured gemstones.

Issues of unaccounted export revenue, loss of value through under-pricing, size of consignments often too small to constitute economically viable exports as well as bureaucracy in export documentation processes are some of the bottlenecks.

Due to lack of knowledge, most rural communities where semi-precious stones are found are unaware of the true value of these gemstones hence they tend to lose out from generating meaningful revenue by selling these at very low prices to unscrupulous dealers.

Fewer gemstones produced in Zimbabwe have been officially accounted for through the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and tourmaline is one of the semi-precious stones largely under-explored and remains a target for smuggling by international cartels of dealers.

The Chinese, Mozambican and Congolese nationals have been cited as major culprits engaged in illicit trade of these semi-precious stones in Zimbabwe.

Government, through the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development must ensure local Zimbabwean miners get special grants in semi-precious rich areas to ensure full utilisation and accountability of these coloured gemstones to curb illegal sales and plug revenue outflows.

Tourmaline occurs in wide range of colours. Varieties available in Zimbabwe are green, watermelon blue and black tourmaline occurring in greisens and pegmatite deposits. All these varieties are mainly available in a pencil crystal form.

Bright pure tones of red, blue and green are generally the most valued but the electric vivid green to blue shades of cuprite tourmaline are so exceptional that they are in a class of themselves.

The rarest and most expensive tourmaline is the Paraiba variety, which is a neon-like blue or green that is coloured by traces of copper. Its price may reach tens of thousands of dollars per carat.

Chrome tourmalines, rubellites and fine indicolites and bi-colors often sell for as much as US$1000/ct. or more. However, tourmaline prices vary tremendously, depending on the variety and quality of the gem.

Tourmalines are mined in most parts of the world including Afghanistan, Africa, Australia, Brazil, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Siberia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, USA and Zimbabwe. ENDS//

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