14 February 2018

Tanzania: JKT Engineers Wall Off Mirerani Gemstone Mines in Record Time

Photo: Daily News
Construction works for the giant concrete fort at the Mirerani Hills in Simanjiro District are now complete.

Simanjiro — CONSTRUCTION works for the giant concrete fort to protect the rare Tanzanite gemstone mining quarries at the Mirerani Hills in Simanjiro District are now complete -- two months ahead of schedule.

Stretching nearly 25km, the 'Great Mirerani Wall' is probably the longest fort ever built in the country, if not in the entire East African Region, all by the country's National Service (JKT) arm.

The Commanding Officer in-charge of the construction, Colonel Charles Mbuge said the wall project started in November last year and was scheduled to be completed on the 30th of April 2018 but so far, the work was done, seventy days ahead of schedule"Originally the works were to take six months, from the 1st of November 2017 to the 30th of April 2018, however the wall will be completed before the 15th of February 2015," saidthe Commanding Officer, adding that the project will cost 5.65 billion/- when it gets completed, and so far, the government has remitted 5.02 billion/-.

He was briefing the two Deputy Ministers for Minerals, Mr Stanslaus Nyongo and Mr Dotto Biteko who visited Mirerani yesterday, to inspect the ongoing construction works to erect the fort around the Tanzanite mining blocks in Simanjiro, District of Manyara. He said next would follow installation of surveillance cameras and other electronic monitoring devices, insisting that despite running nearly 25km, there would be just one gate to serve both as entry and exit point.

President John Magufuli had ordered construction of the wall to protect all mining activitiesat the Mirerani Hills in effort to curb notorious gemstone thefts and smuggling. The Head of State issued the order in September 2017 while inaugurating the KIA-Mirerani road, instructing the Chief of Defence Forces, General Venance Mabeyo to mobilise the Tanzania People's Defence Forces in erecting the fort around the mining area, to curb theft, smuggling as well as alien infiltration in the quarries.

The Simanjiro District Commissioner, Engineer Zephania Chaula explained that, in addition to the wall construction, the authorities have started issuing Identity cards for people who work in the mines and so far, 6000 miners have been issued with such IDs. "We have also directed all quarry owners to provide their employees with official contracts unlike in the past when they used to hire them on temporary basis," said Engineer Chaula adding that already 2000 miners have been issued with contracts.

On their part, both the Deputy Ministers lauded the army for the good work, pointing out that, if the project had been undertaken by private firms, the wall would have taken years to complete and the cost could have been ten times. Notorious smuggling of Tanzanite Gemstones is what prompted the government to erect a wall surrounding the mineral extracting zone in Mirerani.

Recent reports indicate that Tanzanite Gemstones worth nearly 700 billion/- are smuggled out of the country annually through illegal means with the lot ending up in the neighbouring country of Kenya and to as far as India and South-Africa.

While Kenya handles Tanzanite Minerals valued at 100m US Dollars annually and India documents blue gemstones worth 300m US Dollars, and surprising that Tanzania, the source of the blue gemstones, records 38m US Dollars worth of Tanzanite business per annum.

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