Wall around tanzanite mines has started paying off

Tuesday November 6 2018

The Great Mirerani Wall,

The Great Mirerani Wall, built in the north of the Tanzania to prevent the theft of tanzanite. PHOTO | BBC  

By EMMANUEL ONYANGO
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Tanzania has recorded increased revenues from sales of tanzanite, which authorities attribute to the 24km perimeter wall surrounding the mines in Mirerani in the northern Manyara Region, constructed in April to curb smuggling of the rare gemstone.

Tanzanite revenues rose to Tsh1.28 billion ($460,987) in September, from a low of Tsh166 million ($74,439) registered in January 2015, thanks to new laws and regulations that have seen better reporting of exports and increased payment of royalties to the government.

Minister for Minerals Angela Kairuki also attributed the remarkable growth in revenues to tightened security at airports and border points, through which the rare gemstone was being smuggled out of the country.

The minister said the contribution of the entire mineral sector to the economy has increased by 4.8 per cent and she forecast that it will rise by 10 per cent by 2025.

The government hopes to generate Tsh310 billion ($136.6 million) from mining this year, up from Tsh301 billion ($132.6 million) in 2017/18.

Ms Kairuki said the ministry has stepped up efforts to attract investors from China, Russia, Israel, India, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
In July 2017, President John Magufuli ordered construction of the wall around the mines when he toured the Northern Zone; he inaugurated it in April this year.
The president has been cracking down on corruption in the sector, where allegations of fraud and underreporting of production and exports have abounded.

According to documents tabled in parliament during budget proceedings for 2016/17 fiscal year, there were 551 licences issued to small-scale miners in blocks A-D in the Mererani mining site, but most of the licensees did not provide reliable information to the government in relation to the payments of royalties as required by the Mining Act 2010.

Out of these licences, only 15, or 2.7 per cent paid Tsh55.7 million as royalties to the government between July 2010 and March 2016.

Now, the fencing off of the Mererani has started paying off, with smuggling of the precious violet-blue stone now reduced.

India and Kenya were reported to be the leading exporters of the gemstone which, however, is only found at Mererani Hills.

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