A team of miners in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania lead by a 52-year old Maasai miner Saniniu Laizer has found the largest tanzanite gemstones ever recorded.
The two stones -- weighing 9.27 kilograms (20.4 pounds) and 5.103 kilograms (11.3 pounds) -- was discovered buried in the Mererani hill in the Simanjiro district of the country's northern Manyara region. The tanzanite gemstones, which have a blue or deep-violet coloring and are only found in Tanzania, were sold to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.3 million). After receiving the check in a ceremony from Tanzania's top officials, Laizer has said that he intends to spend the money to help his community.
"The money that I have got out of selling my tanzanite, I'm planning to use it to build a school to support my community and a mall to support my family," he said in a broadcast on state-run television network TBC.
Tanzania's President John Magufuli congratulated the miner and said the achievement was an example that, "Tanzania is a rich country. This is actually to the benefit of artisanal miners."
This is a big win for small miners. The government had revoked 5000 mining licenses and turned them over to their citizens, allowing locals to profit from the resources. In addition, foreign miners have been ordered to pay more shares on their discoveries. Tanzanian Minerals Minister Doto Biteko took to a broadcast to encourage small miners to try their hands at the industry. "The tanzanite which have been discovered are [the] largest tanzanite in the history of tanzanite mining in our country, that's why the president had to order us to buy them and preserve [them] until later on, when we shall decide what we want to do with them," Biteko said in the broadcast.
Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning Ashatu Kijaji said the stone's discovery ushers in a new era of business for local artisanal miners to benefit from the country's resources.