Tanzania to be tough on minerals smugglers

26th July 2013 By: John Muchira - Creamer Media Correspondent

Tanzania has declared war on illegal minerals smugglers after it emerged the East African nation is losing more than $15-million a year from the illicit trade.

Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency CEO Paul Masanja says smuggling has been on the rise in recent years, particularly involving small- and medium-scale miners.

“There is a wide network of illegal mining activities that require serious cooperation from all government agencies to tackle,” he says.

Masanja adds that, over the past 12 months, security agencies intercepted about $10- million in cash and minerals destined for Europe and Asia.

Tanzania, Africa’s third-biggest gold producer, has a significant number of artisanal and small-scale miners, who are mostly involved in gold, gemstone, construction materials and salt extraction.

According to Masanja, small- and medium- scale gold miners produce about 20 t a year, yet less than 2 t is recorded by government. Further, less than 1 kg of the estimated 5 kg of the tanzanite that is mined every day is recorded.

Alhough Tanzania, East Africa’s second-biggest economy, has enacted tough laws to deter minerals smuggling, this has not stopped small-scale miners from engaging in the illicit activity.

According to the Mining Act of 2010, an individual arrested conducting illegal mining is liable for a fine of $6 200 or a three-year jail term, while a company found to be guilty of this offence must pay a fine of $31 000.

Mining is one of Tanzania’s key sectors, accounting for 3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). In recent years, the government of Tanzania has introduced significant reforms to spur growth in the sector so that it contributes at least 10% of the GDP by 2025.

Tanzania’s yearly gold export earnings have tripled to $1.5-billion in the past five years, thanks to a steady surge in the price of gold.