By Canisius Mushibwe
A senior official in Mozambique’s ministry of mineral resources has disclosed that over 14 tonnes of gold and other gems have been lost to smuggling.
Fernando Maquene said gold, rubies and other gems have been illegally exported from the country since the start of 2021.
Mozambique is renowned as the home to some of the globe’s largest gemstone deposits which are often mined by small scale miners without any access to official markets.
Speaking during a local radio show, Maquene reaffirmed the smuggling news and noted that the ministry is working towards curbing the vice.
“We are looking for ways to fight the expansion of criminal networks that plunder our territory and our strategic resources,” he said.
Maquene added that fighting against the smuggling of these resources [ gold, rubies, gems among others] can generate income to develop local communities.
Meanwhile, Mozambique’s Supreme Court judge, Rafael Sebastiao, made an assurance to prosecute anyone found liable of the vice.
He, however, said bringing culprits involved in the gemstones smuggling acts is quite difficult due to the lack of transparent mechanisms put in place or evidence to hold offenders accountable.
The illegal trade in gems is highly concentrated in Mozambique’s northern parts which are under the control of Islamist groups that have forced about 800,000 people to flee their residence.
Smuggling of precious stones is a common trend in Mozambique as mining and selling of gemstone is done via corrupt officials in the black market.
According to a report released by a Swiss think tank, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), many displaced people in Mozambique have resorted to involving themselves in the illegal trade of precious stones as a means of survival.
Cabo Delgado, being the home to Montepuez ruby mine, has been the most affected by Islamic terrorism as it currently supplies close to a quarter of new rubies to the world.
It is reported that the mine has extracted about US$600 million worth of rubies since it started operations in 2011.