The representatives of Sri Lanka’s lucrative gem industry Wednesday met with President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat to discuss the problems they face in their work and seek reassurances.
The President held a lengthy discussion with the gem miners and gem businessmen who presented the various difficulties they have encountered during the course of their work at the gem mines.
The representatives made statements to the President about the inconvenience caused due to the inspection of the licensed mines and arrests of mine workers by unauthorized personnel not belonging the National Gem and Jewellery Authority.
The President the relevant authorities to conduct inspections on mines only with the authorized personnel of the National Gem & Jewellery Authority.
The President instructed the officials to carry out such inspections in a manner that would not impede the activities of those who are engaged in the mining activities legally.
The mining industry representatives pointed out the problems arising due to the law that mining can be only carried out between 6.00 am to 6.00 pm. They said the water spraying the mines should be done around 2.00 am and the mine needs to be serviced and maintained day and night to prevent the collapse of mines.
Following their reasoning, the President instructed relevant authorities to remove the law regarding the hours of operation.
The President, after being briefed on the issues regarding the issuance of mining licenses, instructed the authorities to implement a formal system to issue licenses efficiently and to obtain approval of the Agrarian Services Department and other relevant institutions within a week.
Focusing his attention on the request made by the miners to consider the new taxes imposed in the next year’s budget on gem exporters, the President said a decision would be taken in the next cabinet meeting.
Discussions were also held on the mechanism for granting licenses to the mechanically identified mining sites.
To limit the use of back hoes for excavating mines, the President instructed the Gem and Jewellery Authority to control the use of the machines only to sites identified by the authority and to monitor their use.
The representatives also informed the President that no steps have been taken yet on a set of proposals submitted to the President by them.
The President instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment to submit a report within the next two weeks on the proposals which have can be considered and those that cannot be implemented.
Expressing his views, President Sirisena said that the responsibility of the gem industry is to ensure that special attention is focused on environmental conservation.
Pointing out that one of the reasons for the floods that affected several districts is the mining and the lack of conservation of the environment, the President said that illegal mining has also contributed to the rapid spread of dengue in the respective districts.
The President also noted that the Government has taken many steps to ensure the progress of all gem industry players and appreciated the services they rendered to the country to earn foreign exchange.
The industry representatives expressed ideas and suggestions on what steps should be taken in order to uplift the gem industry.
Ministers WDJ Seneviratne, Thalatha Athukorala, Secretary to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment Anura Dissanayake, National Gem and Jewellery Authority chairman DMDOK Dissanayake and the Gem and Jewellery industry representatives participated in the discussion.