Expert blows whistle on mechaised mining

Expert blows whistle on mechaised mining

Mechanized mining is steadily depleting gemstones and minerals in Tanzania to the detriment of artisan miners although the government receives mining royalties whose values are never disclosed.

A guru in the world of gemstones warns Tanzania over its dependence on mechanized mining because its artisans will become dry within a short time because of the haphazard mechanized mining which also creates room for unscrupulous smuggling of gemstones and minerals by foreigners.

Omar Berete explains that mineral-rich Tanzania will be starved of the wealth it should have owned through letting this kind of mining continue unchecked, citing the case of tanzanite, a gem only found in Tanzania but is reportedly sold in different parts of the world.

The former Guinean citizen turned Tanzanian since 1994, says through mechanized mining genuine tanzanite is no longer available, adding: “Before foreign investors invaded the mining sector there was plenty of tanzanite but what is left today in what experts term as synthetic tanzanite.

“The genuine precious gem is no longer found although one may not be able to differentiate between the two.“ The gemstone dealer for over 30 years says that a mine of gold, diamond, tanzanite or other gemstones lasts for only two to three years if mechanized mining is employed while if dug manually it lasts for 50 years.

He cites South Africa, once one of the richest countries in minerals, now sending its mineral investors to African countries because it has depleted them following mechanized mining.

“It is for this reason we now witness the flow of South Africans in many African countries, Tanzania included, scouting for minerals,“ he told The Guardian on Sunday.

“If the future generation is to benefit from the mineral wealth, the government has to stop all mechanized mining,“ advises Berete, who also thinks economists who would directly be dealing with would-be-mineral investors must be placed in Tanzania`s missions abroad instead of leaving the whole process to the Tanzania investment centre.

The mining sector grew by 15.7 per cent in 2005 compared with 15.4 per cent in 2004, contributing 3.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent to GDP respectively, and last year the government formed a special committee to undertake an in-depth evaluation of why the revenue accruing from mining activities was so small.

Legislators have demanded better profit sharing arrangements and fuller accountability to the communities where mines are allocated as companies pay only $200,000 to local authorities annually and a minimal royalty of 3 per cent of the value of exports to the government.

* SOURCE: Sunday Observer

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