A team of Tanzanian miners has discovered the largest tanzanite stones ever seen in the country’s history.
Saniniu Laizer, 52, a Maasai small scale miner and his team found the two stones – weighing 9.27 kilograms (20.4 pounds) and 5.103 kilograms (11.3 pounds) – at Mererani hill in the Simanjiro district of the country’s northern Manyara region. Laizer’s mining company employs more than 200 diggers.
He sold the stones, which have a blue or deep-violet coloring and are only found in Tanzania, to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.3 million).
After being awarded a check during a ceremony attended by Tanzania’s top government officials last week, Laizer said he would spend the funds on his community.
“The money that I have got out of selling my tanzanite, I’m planning to use it to build a school to support my community and a mall to support my family,” he said in a broadcast on state-run television network TBC.
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli congratulated the miner and said the achievement showed that, “Tanzania is a rich country. This is actually to the benefit of artisanal miners.”
Tanzania had revoked around 5,000 mining licenses and handed them to small scale miners to empower Tanzanians, Minerals Minister Doto Biteko said during the broadcast last Wednesday.
Biteko said smaller miners should not be discouraged by the fact that they have no modern technologies for mining.
“The tanzanite which have been discovered are [the] largest tanzanite in the history of tanzanite mining in our country, that’s why the president had to order us to buy them and preserve [them] until later on, when we shall decide what we want to do with them,” Biteko said in the broadcast.
In recent years, Tanzania has made changes to its laws to increase its share of benefits from the discovery and sale of resources.
As a result, foreign mining companies – including gold and graphite mining companies – are meant to give the government 16% equity for free, as required by the laws.
Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning Ashatu Kijaji said the stone’s discovery ushers in a new era of business for local artisanal miners to benefit from the country’s resources.