Tanzania: Tanzanite Dealer Not Conned, Says Minister

THE government has trashed claims circulating in social media outlets that it underpaid artisanal miner Saniniu Laizer for the large Tanzanite gemstones he mined in Manyara Region recently.

"The Tanzanian government will never steal from its citizen," Minister for Minerals Dotto Biteko remarked in response to the baseless claims from some individuals, including outgoing Arusha Urban MP on the Chadema ticket Godbless Lema.

Mr Biteko said the government's focus was to protect and support its citizens to realize their dreams and attain higher standards of living.

The government, through the Ministry of Finance, bought the two gemstones weighing 14 kilogrammes in total at the cost of a whopping 7.7bn/-.

"If our aim was to steal from Mr Laizer, we could have bought the stones before their value had been established," he stated.

Mr Biteko further said that, the overnight billionaire had been in the mining industry for a long time and was deeply knowledgeable on the evaluation of gem stones.

"He is not someone you can steal from," he asserted.

However, he explained that many who were claiming that the government had swindled Mr Laizer were most likely basing their claims on the prices of already cut and polished stones, which is different from the price of rough ones.

He pointed that pricing minerals considers four C's, which are carat, colour, clarity, and cut; and the price increases once a rough stone is well cut and polished.

This causes the price to shoot up by even thirty times.

"This is why we insist to people in the mining industry that the process of adding value to the gem stones should be done in the country. This will open the scope of our markets and sell at a much higher price," he said.

He further explained that the price of minerals was set by the world market and not a specific country, and that Tanzania reduces ten per cent to help open the scope for people to do business in the country.

He went further to point out that minerals in the country were now being noticed because the mining industry was being regulated.

Plus, on the strength of President John Magufuli' stance, miners have realized that smuggling minerals was detrimental rather than beneficial.

"The presence of the wall has also made it hard for smugglers to do so. We would be misleading ourselves if we declared that there are no longer smugglers. It is a fact, though that smuggling has been reduced to a large extent," he said.

He explained, too, that mineral trading hubs had also contributed to the reduction of smuggling of gem stones.

"Previously, we used to accuse miners of smuggling minerals, but we realized that it was our fault, as we hadn't established a system that would restrict them to do so; and had imposed a lot of taxes including 18 per cent VAT and five per cent withholding tax, yet there was no market to which they could sell the stones," he elaborated.

The removal of taxes and establishing markets brought relief to the miners who saw no need of smuggling minerals, he said.

Mr Biteko reiterated that the system had simplified many things in the business environment for the miners.

Mr Biteko said that in the absence of markets, there would be many illegal buyers who cannot be traced as well as where they would sell the minerals, thereby creating room for raising prices.

Once you get minerals, they should be sold in mineral trading hubs, he emphasized.

He pointed out that the benefit of the hubs was that the prices were fair to buyers and the sellers, as opposed to the previous situation whereby small scale miners were manipulated and prices were hiked just to benefit the buyers.

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