A small-scale artisanal miner in Tanzania who became an overnight millionaire in June after his mining firm found two rough Tanzanite gemstones worth $3.4 million, believed to be the world’s largest, has discovered yet another giant violet-blue stone weighing 6.3 kilograms (13.9 pounds).
Saniniu Laizer, 52, was handed a dummy cheque worth 4.8 billion Tanzanian shillings ($2.1 million) by Finance Minister Philip Mpango, who was flanked by Bank of Tanzania Governor Florens Luoga during a brief ceremony at Merelani hills in the country’s northern Manyara region.
The former Maasai herdsman, who initially thought it was sheer luck that his team stumbled upon precious stones, now says he’s absolutely sure even bigger stones could be found at his mining pit soon.
In June, Laizer’s workers, who were slicing the earth’s crust at a deep underground mining pit, discovered gemstones weighing 9.97 kilograms and 5.1 kilograms each which he sold to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings.
Tanzanite – one of the world’s most sought-after gemstones is a thousand times rarer than diamonds. It was first discovered in 1967.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, Laizer said they had found the latest stone about a kilometre below the ground, not far from where they found the others.
Tanzanite, a violet-blue gemstone that rivals sapphires in its intensity, is only found in Tanzania.
Last year, the East African country established a trading centre to allow a legion of artisanal miners to directly sell their finds to the government.
Speaking during the handover, Mpango called on artisanal miners to guard the national wealth by curbing smuggling.
In 2017, President John Magufuli, who is hailed for fighting corruption and public malfeasance, ordered the military to build a 24-kilometre (14.9-mile) perimeter wall surrounding the sprawling Merelani mining site to deter smugglers of precious gemstones.