Tanzanite smuggling still widespread despite ban

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State working on new certificates of origin to curb smuggling.

Tanzanite rough and crystal smuggling has been found to be "back in full swing", a year after Tanzania had banned export of rough gemstone.

A report from The East African newspaper has found that, despite the ban on trading unprocessed tanzanite set on December 31 last year, numbers show that the stone is still being smuggled illegally out of Tanzania. Traders say rough tanzanite is not as fast moving in the market as it was prior to the government comprehensive ban on export of raw Tanzanite.

Northern Zone Mineral officer Benjamin Muchwampaka has said that in Arusha – the town near the Mererani district where tanzanite is mined – the government collected barely $594,255 in during last summer, down from nearly $858,380 before the ban.

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Muchwampaka said the state is currently working out a strategy that will see the introduction of “certificates of origin” in a bid to curb smuggling of tanzanite and boost revenue from the rare gemstone. At present, dealers need a mere permit to export tanzanite, which should in turn slow the amount of smuggled gems.

Once the new system comes into force, exporters will require the certificate of origin to be signed by three designated officials before they export tanzanite consignments. This is in line with the government decision last year through Notice number 146 on export of tanzanite.

The notice that bans export of raw tanzanite was received negatively by many dealers who claimed to have none of the equipment required for cutting and polishing of the stones.

TanzaniteOne, on of the largest exporters of the gemstone, claims that it has yet to implement the directive due to technical hindrances as a result of having too few lapidaries to cut and polish gemstones.

William Ngeleja, minister for Energy and Minerals has said that that the government wants the stones sold in the foreign market after processing.

Mr. Ngeleja said the ban on export of unprocessed tanzanite was done to spur development of local processing facilities, thereby boosting the economy and recouping profits. In agreement, Sammy Mollel, chairman of the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association (Tamida) has repeatedly said that cutting tanzanite locally would minimise smuggling, create employment for local people and contribute to revenue.

The government reiterated that the set timeline barring the trade of raw tanzanite could neither be reviewed nor extended.

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