PESHAWAR: The Gemological Association of Pakistan (GAP) arranged a three-day gems and minerals exhibition in Peshawar from October 9 -11. At least 80 stalls were set up and gemstone owners from across the country took part in the event, taking hope from the initiative. However, traders remain unhappy with the government as no equipment has been provided for extracting or refining gems in the manner in which they had been trained.
A hope for merchants
The K-P government took lead in establishing a mineral policy in 2014, the first ever to be made in the country. Traders of K-P were also given training in 2014 by government and private organisations on gemology and the processes of cutting and polishing stones in order to facilitate business. However, the processes in which they were trained required certain tools of the trade which remain out of reach of those who mine or refine the stones.
Traders at the three-day exhibit expressed their frustration as there were ways to boost the industry but those means remained out of reach. Most of them said the government was not providing machinery for extracting minerals from the mountains or equipment to cut or polish stones. Gemstone traders said they have to send the stones abroad for that purpose.
To provide some context, extraction and mining in the region is done through blasting when an individual explosion removes cone from the material. However, strong explosives break the gems into smaller stones.
Therefore, 80% of the stone’s value is wasted from blasting. Those in the business say there is no other way to excavate stones from mountains in K-P. The quality of the stone and the lack of finesse in the finished product mean less profitable sales.
“The stones that we get are in raw form and the value of these stones is less,” shared a trader from Chitral, Hidayatullah. “People have little know-how and interest in stones in places like Peshawar.”
Owners of gemstones said such exhibitions were encouraging. Zahir Khan, who supplies topaz from Malakand, believes there was high demand in foreign countries which could be tapped into.
Special Assistant to CM Arif Yousaf said, “If we arrange expos and exhibitions across the country or out of the country, we can get large revenue.” He added, “If traders have issues, I am ready to forward their plea to Imran Khan and CM to meet their demands. There is also need to coordinate with the Centre.”
At least 28 different kinds of stones have been displayed at the exhibition from Karachi, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Swat and other areas of the country. The various types of gemstones showcased include amber, opal, agate, coral, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and pearls.
On the opening day, experts briefed students on the value of each stone and the process of cutting and polishing gems. “K-P is blessed with rich natural resources. We need to invite investors from across the world to invest in K-P and Pakistan,” organiser Shakeel Wahidullah Khan expressed his views at the event.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.