Tanzania inaugurates $2.2 million wall around Tanzanite mines to prevent illegal smuggling

In a bid to prevent smuggling of Tanzanite from the newly discovered Tanzanite mines, Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday inaugurated a 24km wall around the country’s Tanzanite mines.

To prevent smuggling of the striking blueish purple gemstone found exclusively in the Merelani foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Magufuli ordered the army to build the wall around the mines. Tanzanite is one world’s ten rarest and most expensive stones.

According to official figures, the mustard-yellow wall guarding the Tanzanite mine is several metres high and has only one entrance, which is secured by the army.  The wall cost $2.2 million to build.

Last month, Magufuli announced the discovery of a new tanzanite reserve, a rare occurrence and the first since 1967. Magufuli speculated that the reserve has the capacity to produce over 1,760 million tonnes tanzanite.

An estimated two million carats of tanzanite have been mined in Tanzania since the first discovery in 1967 by Jumanne Ngoma in the Merelani Hills of Manyara Region in Northern Tanzania. And the world’s largest rough tanzanite was a 16,839 carat (3.38 kg, or 7.46 lb).

However, the government have complained that it loses more than $16.3 million in illegal tanzanite exports, because only 25 out of 1,700 mining firms in the country pay tax. “Before the construction of this wall, there was a lot of tanzanite being lost, about 40% of all production,” Magufuli stated.

Illegal mining of Tanzanite has been predominant in the country, so much that it forced miner Richland Resources – which wholly-owned TanzaniteOne until the government forced it to relinquish half of its stake to the State Mining Corporation (STAMICO) – to exit the country in 2015.

Illegal mining impacted Richland’s financial position, and in 2013 the company reported revenue loss of $11.6-million, 29 percent weaker than the previous year’s $16.4-million.

Tanzanian government has banned the export of unprocessed Tanzanite weighing over a gram.to spur development of local processing factories, grow the economy and recoup profit.