A beautiful gemstone with a wide range of colours, from light to dark hues of blue and violet, found only in a patch 4 kilometres long and two kilometres wide at the foot of mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Existing supply of these gems would run out in about 20 years and finding it in any other region has the probability of just one in a million. Tiffany & Co, the American jewelry manufacturer, described it as “the most important gemstone discovery in over 2000 years”. Yes, we are talking about Tanzanite, the pride of Tanzania.
This rare gemstone was in news recently when a small time miner, Saniniu Laizer found two large weighing 9.27 and 5.103 kgs which are the two largest tanzanite gemstones ever found. This discovery turned the miner millionaire overnight as those pieces were sold at about 3.35 USD. He was congratulated on live television by President John Magufuli, who himself was elected in 2015 with the promise of preservation of the nation’s interest in the mining industry. Mr Laizer’s mining operation includes more than 200 miners and he intends to use the money for the development of a school and a shopping mall near his home.
In order to promote the industry, many reforms were undertaken by the government of Tanzania. It started taking a 50% equity in all mining projects after 2010 and banned the export of large sized raw gemstones. A fence was also built in 2018 around the whole area where Tanzanite is mined but about 40% are siphoned without paying any royalty to the government.
However the discovery of such gemstones by a small miner was made possible due to the government policy of promoting local artisanal miners. In order to foster local ownership, the government gave the land and exclusive mining rights to the artisanal miners who mostly owned small and medium establishments. Many trading centres were established by the government in 2019 to facilitate these miners sell gems and gold directly to the government and earn better revenue.
Such discoveries sound promising for the industry in the light of how extensively they are promoted, and how many effective actions the government has taken to protect the industry. This also acts as a big morale booster for the small miners to redouble their efforts and search for the gemstones more vigorously.