IN the wake of discovery of vast mineral deposits in the country, some being of a unique nature such as tanzanite, experts say only about 10 per cent of the potential is currently under exploitation, leaving over 90 per cent of the reserve still untouched.
Commissioner of Minerals, Mr Paul Masanja, says that presently Tanzania's mining sector contributes 3.5 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) but the target was for the sector to achieve 20 per cent contribution by 2025.
Addressing a seminar organized by the Ministry of Energy and Minerals for stakeholders in the mining sector, including religious leaders, in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, Mr Masanja said exploration work to identify new sites was underway, adding that the challenge was that information about preliminary findings was being prematurely disclosed by some local geologists.
"Once the information is conveyed to the public, a rush follows, a move that complicates the process of issuing mining licences to artisanal miners," he observed.
However, religious leaders raised concern about the removal or displacement of small-scale miners who happen to 'discover' mineral deposits on their own but end up being deprived of the sites, only to survive on 'magwangwala' (mineral remnants).
Ms Grace Masalakulangwa from the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) urged the government to ensure that big mining companies paid all due taxes, supported community projects and helped conserve the environment.
"Truly the country is well endowed with vast mineral deposits and we must be thankful to God. But deliberate measures must be taken to institute proper revenue collection to improve the people's living standards.
Why, for instance, should neighbouring Kenya be credited with exporting tanzanite that comes from Tanzania?", Ms Grace queried.
Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals, Mr Stephem Masele, said the Mineral Policy of 2009 aimed at strengthening integration of the mineral sector with other sectors of the economy.
"The document aims to improve the environment for investment, maximize benefits from mining, improve the legal environment, strengthen capacity for administration of the mineral sector, develop small-scale miners, promote and facilitate valueaddition to minerals," Mr Masele explained.
Tanzania has been a significant diamond producer for several decades, with the bulk of production coming from Mwadui area where commercial mining began in 1925.
The country is the third-largest gold producer in Africa behind South Africa and Ghana, and ranks among the top diamond producers in the world.
Other minerals found in Tanzania include base metals, ferrous minerals and a wide variety of gemstones, including the world famous tanzanite.
Gemstones include rubies, rhodolite, sapphire, emerald, amethyst, chrysoprase, peridot and tourmaline. Coal, uranium and various industrial minerals such as soda, kaolin, tin, gypsum and phosphates are also in abundance.