By Brecken Branstrator
Pact representative Norbert Massay, GIA Graduate Gemologist Marvin Wambua and GIA’s library director Robert Weldon explain the gem guide to artisanal miners in Morogoro, Tanzania.
Carlsbad, Calif.—After seeing success with its pilot program in Tanzania, the Gemological Institute of America will expand distribution of its gem guide for artisanal miners.

President and CEO Susan Jacques announced during the recent ICA Congress in Bangkok a four-year, $1.3 million commitment—funded by the GIA endowment—to expand the program to Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zambia.

The gem guide project began after GIA Distinguished Research Fellow James Shigley traveled to Kenya and Tanzania in 2008 and saw the difficult working conditions of artisanal miners.

Shigley and Dona Dirlam, the director of the GIA library at the time, worked with research and library staff to create the “Selecting Gem Rough: A Guide for Artisanal Miners” booklet.

Developed first in English and then translated to Swahili, the booklet contains images of gems found in East Africa as well as illustrations of how to examine and evaluate rough material.

It’s waterproof and comes with a plastic tray to sort gems and do basic gemological evaluations.

GIA piloted the gem guide program in 2016 in partnership with international NGO Pact.

Earlier this year, staff trained more than 1,000 miners in Tanzania on how to use the guide during a two-week period

“We found that for every dollar invested, there was a 12-fold social return that will last years into the future,” said Cristina Villegas, technical program manager for Pact’s Mines to Markets program. “With their new knowledge, miners improve their income, send their children to school, invest in their mines and their communities.”

With the expansion of the project, GIA will again work with Pact to reach 10,000 miners.  

“This is a tremendous step forward in our efforts to bring information directly to artisanal miners right at the beginning of the gem and jewelry supply chain,” Jacques said. “We know that this investment will bring an invaluable benefit to miners, their families and the communities in which they live.”

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