Tanzania: a minor becomes a millionaire with two pieces of tanzanite

Tanzanie: un mineur devient millionnaire avec deux morceaux de tanzanite

An artisanal miner in tanzania became a millionaire after he discovered two of the largest fragments ever found in the country of tanzanite, a gemstone, and sold to his government.

Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52 years old, has unearthed two stones weighing 9,27 and 5.1 kg in the mountains of Mererani (north), in an area that the president of tanzania, John Magufuli, had decided to surround with a wall in 2018 to control the production and combat the illegal exports of tanzanite.

The minor was sold to the government for the sum of 7.7 billion shillings ($4.4 million).

Tanzanite, precious stone of blue color to violet mainly exported to India, is only used in the mountains of Mererani, near mount Kilimanjaro.

At a reception held on Wednesday in the town of Manyara to celebrate the event, the minister of Mines, Doto Biteko, said that these stones were the largest ever discovered in the country.

“We are moving now to a situation in which the small-scale miners were the traffic of tanzanite to one where they comply with the procedures, and pay the government taxes and royalties”, he said happily.

Mr Laizer said it would use the money to help build its local community. “I plan to build a shopping center in Arusha, and a school near my home,” he said.

The jeweller Le Vian, which in the 1980s and 1990s had acquired half of the production of tanzanite, said that the amount paid to Mr. Laizer was only a fraction of its value in the trade.

“Although the $ 3 million paid to the minor have undoubtedly changed his life for ever, this is only one-twentieth of the potential value on the market of precious stones that he had discovered,” said in a press release Eddie LeVian, its director-general, stressing the difficulty of the work done by Saniniu Laizer.

The government has made it clear on Twitter that the stones are preserved at the national museum.

When the army had started in 2018 to erect a long wall of 24.4 km around the mines of Mererani, the chair Magufuli was estimated that 40% of the national production of tanzanite was lost in smuggling.

Since his arrival to power in late 2015, it engaged in a standoff with the large foreign mining companies operating in Tanzania, accused of having under-assessed their production of gold, diamonds and tanzanite in particular, resulting in a loss of revenue for the country tens of billions of dollars in royalties and taxes since 1998.

A parliamentary report published in September 2017, provided that the extraction of tanzanite benefited mainly farmers and traffickers, because of the corruption in the sector, and contracts are unfavourable.

Tanzania has adopted in 2017, a new law requiring foreign companies to give the State 16% of their shares in each mining project.

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