By Godfrey Uche Nwadique, ICA Ambassador, Nigeria
It is well known that Nigeria has become a major supplier of rough colored gemstones over the past couple of decades, and this is likely to remain the case well into the foreseeable future.
Gemstone mining in Nigeria has always been haphazard, and largely dominated by very small scale artisanal miners. It is on record that many of the major finds in Nigeria have come from herdsmen simply stumbling upon "colorful looking" stones and have brought them to the nearest towns seeking more information about their finds.
But I am optimistic that Nigeria will continue to play a role in the global gemstone market for several reasons:
- Recently, a group of miners has begun to organize and mechanize their operations
- The new government in Nigeria says it aims to provide investment to provide a study of the gemstones sector, and also wants to make mining in Nigeria more efficient with a focus on generating employment
- Gemstone exports from Nigeria have always been somewhat poorly organized, and mainly of rough stones. Recently, however, there has been an attempt to improve mining capacity, to make exporting less cumbersome and transparent, and to encourage value addition for the country's rough gemstones. These are the steps that a World Bank-assisted project has proposed.
About 14 months ago, there was a major sapphire find in the Mambilla Mountains which is an area bordering Cameroon. This mine is producing beautiful royal blue sapphires most of which find their way to Sri Lanka and Chanthaburi in Thailand for manufacturing.
A new tourmaline mine has also been discovered in the old town of Ile-Ife in Osun state in southern Nigeria, which is not an area that was known for gemstone production. However, it is located within the precincts of a police barracks, so you can imagine what is going on there. So far, production is of bi-colored tourmalines in pinks, greens and blues.
Production of spessartite garnet has slowed significantly, although lately there have been isolated finds coming to the market.
The country's rubellite, aquamarine and topaz mines are producing steadily, with the output from the rubellite mine being tightly controlled by its owners.
Finally, there are three well-known emerald mines in Nigeria, although none have received any significant attention. It is my considered opinion that these emerald mines represent huge opportunities for anyone willing to make the needed investment.
Nigeria Mambilla sapphire
Weight in grams.
Photo by Jean Claude Michelou