Picture: 123RF/STOCK
Picture: 123RF/STOCK

South African gemstone miner Gemfields Group said on Thursday that the Zambian government has suspended a 15% export duty on gemstones, excluding diamonds, from January 1 next year.

Miners say the duty, announced in a September 2018 budget, has hurt their operations — one pain point in a wider dispute with the mining industry over tax rates.

“Gemfields is pleased to announce that the government of the Republic of Zambia has suspended the 15% export duty on precious gemstones (excluding diamonds) with effect from 1 January 2020,” Gemfields said in a stock market statement without giving further details.

It posted on its website a copy of a statement to Zambia’s government gazette, signed by finance minister Bwalya Ng'andu and dated December 13, 2019, saying the export duty would be suspended from January 1.

Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, has tried to levy higher taxes on the mining industry, a key sector, as it grapples with high levels of debt and low growth.

However, push-back from the industry has forced it to roll back plans to replace its value-added tax with a non-refundable sales tax, a big bone of contention in the industry.