IN less than just a year, the government through Tanzania Minerals Auditing Agency (TMAA) has seized minerals and gemstones worth 13.17bn/- (more than 8.2 million US dollars) that were to be smuggled out of the country.
The minerals were seized between September 2012 and July 2013 in 23 different incidents, TMAA Director for Finance, Research and Marketing, Mr Bruno Mteta told reporters on Friday.
According to Mr Mteta, most of the arrested smugglers were foreigners and a few were Tanzanians, adding that this month alone they have arrested two foreigners for illegally possessing gemstones and minerals.
Both incidents occurred on August 20 with the first person being arrested at Julius Nyerere International Airport with gemstones worth 25.32m/- (over 15,000 US dollars) and the stones have since been nationalised and the suspect taken to court.
In the second incident, a foreigner was arrested at his residence at Jangwani Beach with gemstones that are still being evaluated, but Mr Mteta noted that the suspect was found with many gems which are believed to be of high value.
He would not name the suspects as the matter is awaiting court action but said the gems were Amber.
"We appeal to the public to stop smuggling minerals and engage in illegal mineral and gemstone trade because the government is now keen to make sure it benefits from the trade and strategies are in place to combat illegal trade in minerals," he said.
Mr Mteta went on to blame local traders, dealers and brokers who have been licenced to engage in the trade of misleading and conning some foreigners who are left helpless once they are duped.
"Some local traders abuse their licences and are dishonest, they are not helping matters at all. In fact they are the ones who deny the government revenues from mineral trade by avoiding taxes and being dishonest to investors, tarnishing the country's reputation," he said.
Among the strategies in place to fight smuggling, TMAA has stationed officers at all major airports in the country and major mining firms.
He also said that the agency has recommended that whistleblowers who give information leading to the seizure of gemstones and minerals would be paid booty of 20 percent of the minerals' worth.
Mr Mteta also said that between 2009 and 2012, ten major mining firms have paid the government royalties of up to 317.74bn/-.
TMAA was established in 2009 with the aim of ensuring that the government got deserved revenues from minerals and gemstones trade through supervision and auditing of mining activities and to make sure that mining activities adhere to standards of environmental conservation.
The agency is also tasked with fighting minerals' smuggling; ensure proper royalties are paid by firms with the help of other government agencies.