Tanzanian Miner Is Overnight Millionaire With Large Gem Find

DODOMA, Tanzania (AP) -
One of two of the biggest rough tanzanite gemstones ever found is weighed in Mererani, Tanzania Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (AP Photo)

A small-scale miner in Tanzania has become an overnight millionaire after unearthing two of the biggest rough tanzanite gemstones ever found.

Tanzania’s government bought the book-sized stones weighing 20 pounds and 11 pounds from miner Saniniu Laizer for $3.4 million.

Minerals Minister Doto Biteko said on state TV Wednesday the government is buying the rare minerals for preservation.

“We’re signing agreements today in public to facilitate the cash transfer … and the government recognizes Laizer is a new billionaire,” he said, speaking in terms of the local currency.

Laizer said in a broadcast interview he plans to open a shopping mall and a school for his community. “The money that I have received today, I will allocate it to more development activities,” he said.

Tanzania is a rich country, President John Magufuli said when congratulating him.

Tanzanite is found only in the East African country.

Mining activities accounted for 17% of the East African country’s GDP in 2019. Magufuli’s administration has imposed reforms that seek to curb smuggling and increase revenue collection in the sector.