Small Scale Tanzanian Miner becomes a Millionaire Overnight

Tanzanite, an extremely rare blue-violet Zoisite, a Calcium Aluminum Hydroxy Sorosilicate, found only in Tanzania in a small area of the country, a strip of land 7 km long and 2 km wide, near the Mirerani Hills in the north of the country, has once again created sensational news, after a Tanzanian farmer/miner by the name of Saniniu Laizer, mining in the Blocks B & D reserved for local miners, unearthed two huge slabs of Tanzanite weighing approximately 20 lbs (9.72 kg) and 11 lbs (5.1 kg) on 24th June, 2020, and sold them to the Ministry of Mining of Tanzania, for a staggering 7.74 bn Tanzanian Shillings equivalent to US$ 3.35 mn, making him a millionaire overnight. Both stones recovered by Mr. Saniniu Laizer have surpassed the previous record for the largest Tanzanite mined in the region, a 3.38 kg (7.46 lb) stone mined by the mining company TanzaniteOne in 2005.

The two large tanzanite crystals discovered by  Mr. Saniniu Laizer
The two large tanzanite crystals discovered by Mr. Saniniu Laizer

Tanzanite, first discovered in July 1967, by Manuel de Souza, a part-time gold prospector living in Arusha, as fragments of blue and blue-purple gem crystals, on a ridge near, Mirerani, was first identified by the GIA as a new variety of the mineral zoisite, and subsequently confirmed by mineralogists of Harvard and Heidelberg Universities and the British Museum, and was given the scientific name Blue Zoisite. The mineral Blue Zoisite believed to have been formed around 585 million years ago during the massive tectonic upheavals and heat generated and associated with the formation of Mount Kilimanjaro, was given the name Tanzanite by Tiffany & Co. capitalizing on the rarity and single location of the gem. Tiffany’s original campaign advertised Tanzanite as an extremely rare gemstone found only in two places in the World, Tanzania and at Tiffany’s.

Mr. Saniniu Laizer holding the tanzanite slabs
Mr. Saniniu Laizer holding the tanzanite slabs

In 2017, President Magufuli ordered the military to build a 24km (14-mile) perimeter wall around the Merelani mining site in Manyara, the narrow strip of mining area, 7 km by 2 km, with the intention of improving security and preventing smuggling. The President’s far-sighted action led to a phenomenal increase in production of Tanzanite from 147.7 kg in 2018 to a record 781.2 kg in 2019.

Mr. Saniniu Laizer, 52, is married to four wives with more than 30 children, owns 2,000 cows, and owns a licence to mine Tanzanite in the area reserved for local miners. A delighted Mr. Laizer said he would slaughter one of his cows to celebrate, the occasion.

President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, phoned in to congratulate Mr Laizer on his rare find. “This is the benefit for small-scale miners and this proves that Tanzania is rich,” the president said. Mr. Magufuli came to power in 2015 promising to safeguard the nation’s interest in the mining sector and increase the government’s revenue from it.

Mr. Saniniu Laizer, delighted by his windfall, said that he will use part of the proceeds from the sale, to build a school and a shopping mall for his community, a commendable vision to share his God-given fortune with his people. “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.”

He further said, the windfall would not change his lifestyle, and that he planned to continue looking after his 2,000 cows. He said he did not need to take any extra precautions despite his new-found riches. “There is enough security [here]. There won’t be any problem. I can even walk around at night without any problem.”

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