Tanzanite Mining Overview
Gemstone export values rose to US$29.12 million in 2003 compared to US$22.02 million in 2002. This increase was attributed to an expansion of mining and also of trading activity within the gemstone industry. In 2002 there were 212 official gemstone traders but the number had risen to 417 in 2003. Merelani Mining Co Ltd, a subsidiary of African Gem Resources Ltd (Afgem) of South Africa, is the only mechanised large-scale tanzanite mine in Tanzania and accounts for over 30% of the total exports of tanzanite.
Tanzania has large reserves of the rare dark blue gem tanzanite, which is regarded as the most popular coloured gemstone in the USA after sapphire. Tanzania’s tanzanite deposits are restricted to small localised deposits located near Arusha, close to Mount Kiliminjaro. South African junior mining company, African Gem Resources and partner Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) have acquired a mining license to exploit two thirds of the deposit. Production at the mine is anticipated to produce approximately 1.5 Mct per year with a life of mine of about 20 years.
Over 98% of gemstones are exported from Tanzania in raw form to cutting and polishing centres outside the country, however, the value of the rough gemstones that are retained in Tanzania is insignificant when compared with the amounts that are received from the sale of the polished products. As a result of this Tanzania tends not to benefit and the government is reviewing the legislative framework in the hope of inserting a clause that would require all gemstones eventually to be cut and polished in Tanzania prior to export.
Caesars Resources has acquired three of local company Pacific Mining Corporation’s prospecting licenses located in southern Tanzania. Apparantly the region has potential to host significant sapphire, garnet and precious gemstone potential.