13 Aug 2019
A hundred kilometres east of Swakopmund on the B2, at the turnoff to Spitzkoppe and Henties Bay, is a gemstone market of note. An array of sparkling stones - fluorite, tourmaline, aquamarine, crystal quartz, garnets and topaz - fill the tables.
Namibia, a geological haven, is rich in minerals, including coloured gemstones. The small-scale miners of Namibia, thought to number between five and ten thousand, are concentrated in the Erongo, Kunene and Karas regions. These small miners live a tough existence, eking out a living from the earth and working under harsh conditions. The Erongo Region, where the crystal market is found, has many mining communities who earn their livelihood from the sale of their stones. Most of the gemstone traders have families who mine the stones at Klein Spitzkoppe, Brandberg or the Erongo mountains.
Gerhard Geibeb has been mining and selling his stones here for nearly twenty years. “Mining is hard,” he says “especially with little equipment.” The gemstone traders previously sold their goods at makeshift stalls along the roadside until the crystal market was opened in 2010. The name of the market ‘Ûiba-Ôas’ means ‘Searching for Life’ in Damara Nama. It was sponsored by Rössing and other stakeholders to provide an indoor market for the traders. “Life is a circle,” Gerhard says. “The market is helping other miners so they can buy food and go back to the mountains to dig.”
Another long-time gemstone trader, Susana Skoppelitus, has been selling stones for thirty years at the Spitzkoppe junction, has mined with her six sons and has supported herself since her husband died ten years ago. Her nephew, miner George van Staden, sums up the situation for many of them selling at the market. He says, “I was born in stones, I grew up in stones and will die in stones.”
Purchase a Namibian gemstone today and support the small-scale miners of Namibia.
(GIZ – a German development agency has been tasked with developing industry growth strategies - in conjunction with the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade & SME development - to offer support, encourage development and promote value addition in the small mining sector in Namibia. The Gondwana Collection joined them to produce a series of video clips to highlight and uplift the lives of the small miners. The aim is to keep the whole value chain in the country, from the raw stone and cutting and polishing to its inclusion in jewellery - keeping the entire product purely Namibian.)
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