Tanzanian miner gives earnings from rare gem finds to build school and hospital in home town
A Tanzanian miner who made headlines in June after finding two huge, rare gemstones has done it again. Saniniu Laizer, 52, of the Simanjiro District in Tanzania has discovered a new stone of the rare gem Tanzanite. The first two stones weighed in at 9.2kg (20.3 lbs) and 5.8kg (12.8 lbs), and the third weighs in at 6.3kg (13.9 lbs) — they three of them being among the biggest rough Tanzanite stones ever found (they total 19.3kg, or 42.5 lbs), with all three being found in just two months by the same man.
Laizer found the new stone about a kilometer below ground — around the same depth where he found the other two stones. Tanzanite is one of the rarest, most valuable stones in the world. It is only found in a 14 square kilometer strip of land in northern Tanzania, and one local geologist estimates that its supply may be totally depleted within the next 20 years. The precious stone is highly valued for its hues - it can be green, blue, purple and red. Its value is determined by rarity, with finer color and clarity fetching higher prices.
After finding the two large stones in June, Laizer sold them to the Tanzanian government for $3.4 million. He said after his initial find that he would throw a huge party, and now it looks like he's gonna have to throw another one — he sold the new stone to the government for another $2 million. But rather than use his money on mansions, cars, or even quitting his job, Laizer said he plans to use the money to build schools and health facilities for his town. "Selling to the government means there are no shortcuts... they are transparent," says Laizer. Lazier urged his fellow small-scale miners to work with the government, saying that his experience was a good example. Mine owners are often late with their payments when miners sell to them, and in the past many have sold to illegal gem traders instead.
In 2017, the president of Tanzania, John Magufuli, ordered the military to build a 24km (14-mile) perimeter wall around the Merelani mining site in Manyara, believed to be the world's only source of Tanzanite. Before 2018, approximately 40% of all Tanzanite mined in Manyara was sold into the illegal gem trade. But since the wall has gone up, smuggling has gone down, and government revenue has gone up.
Laizer initially thought that the gems he found in June came from sheer luck, but after his newest discovery he believes that there's even more to be found in his mining pit. "I am sure we can get bigger stones than this. Hard work pays," he said. Laizer has said that he doesn't feel the need to take any precautions due to his newfound wealth — he will continue living with his family (Laizer has four wives and 32 children), and tending to his 2,000 cows. "There is enough security [here]. There won't be any problem. I can even walk around at night without any problem."
Here's hoping the future brings him some more uncut gems.