25 June 2020 14:38
DAR ES SALAAM: A Tanzanian small-scale miner has become a multi-millionaire after uncovering two of the biggest of the country's precious tanzanite stones ever found and selling them to the government. Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, found the stones weighing 9.27 and 5.1 kg respectively in the northern Mirerani hills, an area which President John Magufuli had fenced off in 2018 to stop smuggling of the gem. He sold them to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings (nearly US$3.3 million). Tanzanite was first found in the foothills of Kilimanjaro in 1967, and the northern Tanzanian region of Manyara is the only known place where the stones, coveted by jewellers by their remarkable violet-blue sparkle, are found. At a function celebrating the find in Manyara on Wednesday, mining minister Dotto Biteko said the stones were the biggest ever uncovered in the country.
"Laizer is our (shilling) billionaire and let us make sure that he is safe," he said. Advertisement "We are now moving from a situation where the small miners were smuggling tanzanite, and now they are following the procedures and paying government taxes and royalties." Laizer said he hoped to use the money to develop his community. "I plan to build a mall in Arusha and a school near my home," said Laizer. "I thank God for this achievement because it's the first time to get this size. When I found these, I notified government officials who valuated the stones and today they called me for payment." The government wrote on Twitter that the stones would be placed in the national museum.
Doto Biteko, the Minister of Minerals, collected the gemstone from the small-scale miner and handed him a cheque of Tsh7.74 billion Tanzanian shillings (about $3.34) on behalf of the government at a ceremony in Manyara region. Biteko said President John Magufuli directed that the government should buy the two gemstones and place them in the National Museum in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam where tourists can admire them. Without mentioning the date on which the small-scale miner discovered the two gemstones, Biteko thanked the miner for agreeing to sell the gemstones to the government. A small-scale Tanzanian miner has become an overnight millionaire after finding the two largest tanzanite gemstones ever discovered. Not bad for a day's work, eh? Saniniu Laizer was handed cheque for a whopping 7.74bn shillings (£2.7m) by the Tanzian government in exchange for his find. Credit: Tanzania Ministry of Minerals The two gems, which are a dark violet-blue colour, weighed 9.2kg and 5.8kg, toppling the previous heaviest stone - which weighed 3.3kg. Tanzanite, as the name suggests, is only found in Tanzania, where it is used to make ornaments and other decorative items. It is also one of the rarest stones on Earth - its value is driven by its rarity and the better the colour or clarity, the more it's worth. Speaking to the BBC, Laizer, 52, said: "There will be a big party tomorrow." Advert He went on to say: "I want to build a shopping mall and a school. I want to build this school near my home. There are many poor people around here who can't afford to take their children to school." "I am not educated but I like things run in a professional way. So I would like my children to run the business professionally." A tanzanite gem. Tweeting about his good fortune, he said: "Focus, determination, hard working and consistency is my big secret, I thank everyone." He told the news outlet the money won't change his lifestyle. Simon Msanjila, mines ministry permanent secretary, said at a specially held ceremony: "Today's event... is to recognise the two largest tanzanite gemstones in history since the beginning of mining activities in Mirerani." Laizer's find was even recognised by President John Magufuli who called him to congratulate him on live TV. A small-scale miner in Tanzania. Credit: PA Magufuli told minerals minister Doto Biteko: "This is a confirmation that Tanzania is rich." Lazier found the stones in a tanzanite mine in the north of the country, which are surrounded by walls to help combat cross-border smuggling of the valuable stones - until the walls were erected in 2018, Magufuli claimed that up to 40 percent of the tanzanite found was being lost. Last year, the country set up trading centres to allow small-scale miners, such as Lazier, to sell what they find to the government. Small-scale miners are not officially employed by mining companies and usually do their mining by hand.