A Tanzanian small-scale miner has become a multi-millionaire after uncovering two of the biggest of the country’s precious Tanzanite stones ever found and selling them to the government.
Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, found the stones weighing 9.27 and 5.1 kilogrammes (20.4 and 11.2 pounds) respectively in the northern Mirerani hills, an area which President John Magufuli had fenced off in 2018 to stop smuggling of the gem.
He sold them to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings (nearly $3.3 million/2.9 million euros)
Businessman Saniniu Laizer says he plans school and shops for local community
The rocks are the two largest Tanzanite gemstones ever recorded.
The dark violet-blue gemstones, each about 30cm long and 10cm thick, were discovered by miners employed by Saniniu Laizer in a mine in the north of the Country.
“There will be a big party tomorrow,” Laizer, from Simanjiro district in Manyara, told the BBC.
“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,” he said.
Local and international reporting of the find has described a rags to riches story, with a “subsistence miner” said to have “hit the jackpot”.
However, Laizer runs a substantial mining operation involving more than 200 people, which he has funded with the profits of his extensive cattle and farming businesses, and was not present when the record-breaking find was made.
“He has logistics experts, engineers, geologists who help him in the planning of the operations. He doesn’t himself go to the pit to dig. He has a number of tried laborers who … do the mining,” said a manager, Kiria Laizer.
“It’s a really challenging experience. It’s tough of course, working in this dusty area. We inhale a lot of dust and get sick, but we haven’t lost the determination to work. We feel grateful that our boss has finally got these stones. We are planning to have roast meat together when we return to the mining site.”
He said that 10% of the earnings from the sale of the stones will be distributed among the workers.
Relatives said Laizer, 52, was organizing festivities to celebrate the find in his home village.
Laizer was pictured on Tanzanian television being presented with a large check. President John Magufuli phoned to congratulate him live on TV.
The president reportedly ordered officials to buy the two gemstones and place them in the national museum in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, where tourists can admire them. “This is a confirmation that Tanzania is rich,” Magufuli said.
Tanzanite is found only in a small northern region of the east African nation. It was first identified in 1967.
The gemstones come out of the ground a dark brown color but when irradiated, Tanzanite permanently turns into a memorizing violet lavender color which became sought after worldwide for it’s beauty and scarcity.
Jewelers and Designers worldwide have used Tanzanite to create fantastic Bling Jewelry!
Tanzania built a fence around Tanzanite mining concessions in northern Tanzania in April 2018 in an attempt to control illegal mining and trading activities. At the time, officials said 40% of Tanzanite produced there was being lost.
The biggest previous Tanzanite find was 3.38kg stone found by a commercial mining company 15 years ago.
Many artisanal miners are not officially employed by any mining companies and usually mine by hand. Tens of millions of people across Africa depend on revenues from the activity, despite its dangers.
Last year Tanzania set up trading centres around the country to allow artisanal miners to sell their gems and gold to the government, a step encouraged by campaigners seeking to improve conditions in the industry.
Mr Laizer, 52, who has four wives and over 30 children, said he would slaughter one of his cows to celebrate.
He also plans to invest in his community in Simanjiro district in Manyara.
“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.”