Tanzanite. Picture: 123RF/ANDY KOEHLER
Tanzanite. Picture: 123RF/ANDY KOEHLER

Nairobi — A Tanzanian hand miner has become an instant millionaire after selling two of the largest tanzanite gems ever discovered to the government.

The East African nation’s central bank paid Saniniu Laizer 7.7-billion shillings ($3.3m) for the stones, which weighed 9.2kg and 5.8kg.

Laizer, clad in the traditional red and white checkered robes of the Maasai community, received the payment at an award ceremony in the northeastern Manyara region, which was broadcast on national television on Wednesday.

President John Magufuli said the purchase from Laizer was vindication of reforms to the mining industry that the government has implemented since he came to power in 2015. The changes include the introduction of centres where small-scale miners can trade their finds.

Tanzania is the world’s only source of tanzanite, a blue-purple gem that’s found at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Bloomberg