The site for a $10 million lapidary in Monkey Mountain, in the North Pakaraimas, Region Eight, has been identified and construction is expected to commence soon, according to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
While only a quarter acre of land was requested for the construction of the facility, the village has decided to set aside an acre of land, which will see the construction of a 40 ft x 20 ft facility, which will house a workshop, exhibit area, washrooms and security area, the ministry said in a statement issued last Monday.
Essentially, the facility, once operable, will produce jewellery, ornaments and exotic furniture pieces using semi-precious stones which can be found in abundance on the plains of the Pakaraimas.
It was noted that while the village’s main economic activity has traditionally been farming, hunting and fishing, several persons from the village have been actively involved in gathering semi-precious stones.
The villages of Kato, Kurukubaru, Maikwak and Tuseneng are also expected to benefit since semi-precious stones, such as crystals, amethyst, volcanic, jasper and agate gemstones, can also be found there in abundance
In the statement, it was noted that the site for the lapidary was identified just recently during a meeting in the presence of Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Valerie Garrido-Lowe.
In her address to the villagers, the minister made clear that it is government’s intention to empower and enable the indigenous people despite their geographic location.
“I believe that no matter what fancy building we give you, fancy schools we give you, if we do not empower you, economically, if we cannot give you the opportunity to earn, to buy things for your children, yourself and your home, then we are not doing anything better for you; we are just keeping you the same way you were all the time and it is not right,” she said.
A tourism aspect of the initiative was also highlighted by the minister, who suggested that tourists can go on an excursion in search of semi-precious minerals and be able to appreciate the process from the time it is collected to completion of the final product. Additionally, the minister encouraged villagers to support the establishment of a Cooperative Society, which will further strengthen their earning power.
“It will give you an opportunity to earn in an organized way….and [Business] Minister [Dominic] Gaskin, who is not only the Minister of Business but he’s an excellent jeweler, is very excited with working with us on this project. Not only will we sell polished stones but we will also learn to make jewellery, we will train about five or six young people to make jewellery from these beautiful stones, so like the tomato farmers in Paramakatoi, you will be able to earn from the Coop,” the minister assured.
Meanwhile, Perlina Griffith, the Chief Co-operatives Development Officer in the Ministry of Social Protection, who was part of the team that visited the village, said once established, the Co-op will ensure “better representation for members and communities, where members can apply and acquire more resources…we believe that if people come together, the profits will be shared and not only one man will become the rich and famous in the community, but all will become rich and famous. It will also ensure better opportunities for marketing products that’s where we will help you too.”