September 28, 2020

Tanzanian man becomes millionaire after discovering biggest tanzanite gems on record

June 25, 2020

A small scale Tanzanian miner has hit the jackpot after discovering what are believed to be the two largest tanzanite gemstones ever found.

The Bank of Tanzania handed Saniniu Laizer a cheque for 7.74bn Tanzanian shillings (£2,670,139) after he found the two dark violet-blue gemstones, each about the size of an average forearm.

The stones were found in a tanzanite mine in the country's north that is surrounded by a wall to control cross-border smuggling of the gemstones.

Tanzanite is found only in a small northern region of the East African nation.

The first gemstone weighed 9.27kg (20.43lb) while the second weighed 5.10kg (11.25lb), a government spokesperson said.

"Today's event... is to recognise the two largest tanzanite gemstones in history since the beginning of mining activities in Merelani," mines ministry permanent secretary Simon Msanjila said at a ceremony in Tanzania's northern Manyara region.

Subsistence miner Mr Laizer was shown on Tanzanian television being handed a large cheque after the Bank of Tanzania bought the gemstones.

President John Magufuli phoned to congratulate Mr Laizer live on television.

"This is a confirmation that Tanzania is rich," Mr Magufuli told minerals minister Doto Biteko.

Tanzania last year set up trading centres around the country to allow artisanal miners to sell their gems and gold to the government.

Artisanal miners are not officially employed by any mining companies and usually mine by hand.

Mr Magufuli inaugurated the wall around tanzanite mining concessions in northern Tanzania in April 2018, in an attempt to control illegal mining and trading activities.

At the time he said 40% of tanzanite produced there was being lost.

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