Zambia suspends 15% export duty on gemstones

A colored gemstone is seen in a file photo.
South African gemstone miner Gemfields Group Ltd said on Thursday that the Zambian government has suspended a 15% export duty on gemstones, excluding diamonds, from January 1, 2020.

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 elaborating further.

It posted on its website a copy of a statement to Zambia’s government gazette, signed by the Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu and dated Dec. 13, 2019, saying the export duty would be suspended from Jan. 1, 2020.

The finance ministry could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for the Zambian Revenue Authority did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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.