Tanzanian miner is overnight millionaire with large gem find

DODOMA, Tanzania (AP) — A small-scale miner in Tanzania has become an overnight millionaire after unearthing two of the biggest rough tanzanite gemstones ever found. Tanzania’s government bought the book-sized stones weighing nine kilogramme and five kilogramme from miner Saniniu Laizer for USD3.4 million.

Minerals Minister Doto Biteko said on state television last Wednesday the government is buying the rare minerals for preservation.

“We’re signing agreements today in public to facilitate the cash transfer… and the government recognises Laizer is a new billionaire,” he said, speaking in terms of the local currency.

Laizer said in a televised interview he plans to open a shopping mall and a school for his community. “The money that I have received today, I will allocate it to more development activities,” he said. Tanzania is a rich country, President John Magufuli said when congratulating him. Tanzanite is found only in the East African country. Mining activities accounted for 17 per cent of the East African country’s GDP in 2019. Magufuli’s administration has imposed reforms that seek to curb smuggling and increase revenue collection in the sector.

Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with two of the biggest of the country’s precious gemstones, Tanzanite, as a millionaire during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania on June 24. PHOTO: AFP