Tanzania has sought the services of Kenya to stem illegal exports of tanzanite, a key mineral, being shipped through the latter’s borders.
Acting Commissioner for Minerals in the Ministry of Energy Ally Semeja said Tanzania had enhanced verification and body checks at Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) and Mwanza Airport in order to curb smuggling of minerals including gemstones.
“Even though it is only JNIA and KIA that allow for export of minerals, we have also stationed officials from the Tanzania Mineral Audit Agency and other organs at Mwanza Airport because smugglers don’t confine themselves to the two airports only,” said Mr Semeja.
The move is the latest in a string of attempts by the government to track down a group of international smugglers who have been exporting minerals to overseas markets in China, Italy, Vietnam and Europe.
Statistics released last month show that the country loses Tsh2.2 billion ($1.36 million) every month from illegal export of minerals.
Last week, mining officials in Arusha claimed that neighbouring Kenya exports some 2.5 tonnes of the rare gemstone that is only found in Tanzania.
Mr Semeja revealed that in their drive to curb illegal exports, the two countries would sign a memorandum of understanding, under Phase II of their co-operation.
“Last year we travelled to Kenya to discuss this issue with our counterparts after Tanzania introduced issuance of certificates of origin for the gemstone; this has started bearing fruit because anyone who wants to export the gemstone from Kenya is asked for this certificate.”
Tanzania has banned tanzanite exports that lack a certificate of origin.
At an average growth rate of 12.4 per cent in the past decade, mining is one of the fastest growing sectors of Tanzania’s economy.
Unfortunately, it accounts for a meagre 2.3 per cent of the GDP but contributes a significant one-third of foreign exchange earnings to the country.
Minerals account for about 42 per cent of Tanzania’s exports, the bulk of which are gold, diamonds and tanzanite.
According to the Mining Act a smuggler is liable to a fine of Tsh10 million ($6,250) or three years in jail, and a company to a Tsh50 million ($31,250) penalty.