Tanzania, the world’s only source of tanzanite, will create jobs and increase earnings from the
bluish-hued gemstone by banning the export of raw stones, Minerals and Energy Minister William Ngeleja said.
The ban, effective immediately, is part of the Mining Act and is aimed at increasing the contribution of the industry to Tanzania’s economy, Ngeleja said by mobile telephone on June 5. He declined to say how much revenue Tanzania earned from tanzanite sales or how the ban would affect income.
Tanzanite, which is 1 000 times rarer than diamonds, is mined from the world’s only known deposit, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak. Sales of the stones are under pressure as economic uncertainty dampens demand from jewellers and consumers of luxury goods in the US, the largest buyer.
Tanzanite One, the world’s largest tanzanite miner, is awaiting official notification of the ban from government,
chairperson Ami Mpungwe said by mobile telephone. “Until we get such a clear-ance, we cannot say anything concrete.”
The company is focused on increasing tanzanite production and is targeting output of 2,2-million carats for 2010, CEO Bernard Olivier said in Tanzan-ite One’s annual report, pub-lished on its website.
Mining provides direct employment for about 14 000 workers in Tanzania, Africa’s third-largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. About 42% of Tanzanian exports are minerals, mainly gold, as well as diamonds and tanzanite.
A ban on Tanzanite exports will create additional jobs in the mining industry, said Sammy Mollel, chairperson of the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association.
“Many gemstone cutting and polishing operations have either closed down or are operating beneath full capacity because of increased exports of rough tanzanite,” he said by mobile telephone. Tanzania has about 400 specialist gemstone cutters, Mollel said.
Tanzania’s Parliament passed a law on April 24 that raises royalty payments and gives the government a stake in all future mining projects. Besides Tanzanite One, AngloGold Ashanti, Africa’s biggest gold producer, and African Barrick Gold, a unit of the world’s largest producer of the metal, operate mines in Tanzania.
The law change threatens to “significantly reduce the competitiveness of Tanzania’s mining industry”, the country’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy said on May 3.
Certain provisions in the Act, such as the processing of gemstones locally, could “stagnate development” of the industry, Emmanuel Jengo, executive secretary of the chamber, said at the time.