Tanzania Suspends Ban on Exports of Raw Tanzanite

Tanzania, the world’s only source of tanzanite, said it has temporarily lifted an export ban on the export of raw stones.

Companies such as TanzaniteOne Ltd. will be allowed to export rough gems larger than 5 carats in size, Peter Kafumu, the commissioner for minerals in the Ministry of Minerals and Energy, said in a telephone interview today from the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

“Exporters asked us to lift the ban temporarily,” Kafumu said. “We agreed but each exporter has been given an exemption depending on his stone-cutting ability.”

Tanzanite, which is 1,000 times rarer than diamonds, is mined from the world’s only known deposit, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak. The government in June banned the export of the bluish-hued gemstone in an effort to boost domestic jobs and increase the contribution of the industry to Tanzania’s economy.

“The suspension of the ban is discouraging Tanzanite dealers who were keen on increasing capacity of the industry to polish raw gems,” Sammy Mollel, the chairman of the Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association, said from Arusha.

Mining provides direct employment for about 14,000 workers in Tanzania, Africa’s third-largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. About 42 percent of Tanzanian exports are minerals, mainly gold, as well as diamonds and tanzanite.