Tanzania govt to honour accidental mining millionaire by keeping stones in a museum

Edited By: Palki Sharma WION
New Delhi Published: Aug 05, 2020, 10:09 PM(IST)

Saniniu Laizer holding the tanzanite gems Photograph:( Reuters )

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Now, Laizer has sold the third stone, weighing about 6 kilograms to the government for two million dollars.

Saniniu Laizer threw a big party a month ago. Now, he must arrange a second one. Two precious stones -- the size of a rugby ball with a deep bluish tint and silvery bruises made Laizer an overnight millionaire in June.

Now, he has discovered another cake of tanzanite. His satchel is unzipped to pocket millions of dollars yet again.

"I am feeling great and I am feeling so happy because this thing has brought a lot of respect for me and for Tanzania and as the owner I have to thank god because it would not be possible to get this without it being part of his grand design," he says.

In June, Laizer, a small-scale miner, unearthed two tanzanite gemstones at a mine in Manyara. One weighed 9 kilograms, the other about 5 kilograms. He sold both the stones to the government for over 3 million dollars. They are among the biggest rough tanzanite stones ever found.

Now, Laizer has sold the third stone, weighing about 6 kilograms to the government for two million dollars. Tanzanite is one of the rarest gemstones in the world. That makes it one of the most valuable too.

The three stones together were valued at over 5 million dollars by the government.

Much lower than the retail value. So, why did Laizer choose to sell them to the government at a cut price?

"We Tanzanians have decided that minerals should first benefit us as a country; it is enough for us being brokers to others and let our minerals go and benefit them while our communities remain poor. For example, in many mining areas business has gone up. Even areas where there was no business, now things have changed."

Tanzanite is only found in a 14 square kilometre strip of land in northern Tanzania. The mineral-rich area is fenced off by a huge wall to keep away smugglers.

Before 2018, 40 per cent of all tanzanite found at the site slipped into illegal trade. Since the wall has come up, smuggling has gone down, government revenue has gone up.

Saniniu Laizer has set an example by not selling the stones to smugglers. In his honour, the government will keep the stones in a museum.

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