African Gem Resources Limited (AFGEM), the South African mining company, says it has “committed its resources to the regulation and formalization of the tanzanite industry” and has the full support of the Tanzanian government to accomplish the task.
AFGEM, which has leased the best portion of the Mererani Hills (block C) from the Tanzanian government, says that the non-regulation of the tanzanite industry has hurt the tanzanite market. The Wall Street Journal recently published a story that alleges a link between the tanzanite trade and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network.
“It is most distressing that the tanzanite trade, like so many other industries, has been implicated with the Al Qaida network,” Joanne Herbstein, AFGEM’s spokesperson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, historically, the tanzanite industry has been unregulated and informal, with little control of the channel through which tanzanite exits Tanzania. With this historic lack of regulation, illegality was bound to prevail.”
Tanzanite has been mined on an informal basis by small-scale miners, who typically have neither the capital nor the technology to employ safe mining methods, Herbstein says. This has resulted in many tragic fatalities and has opened the market to the exploitation of child labor, much to the disdain and concern of international labor bodies and the Tanzanian government.
“Tanzanite’s past has been riddled with the unsavory fruits of an unregulated industry and it has been crippling to the Tanzanian economy,” Herbstein says. “AFGEM’s recent involvement is the first attempt at formalizing the tanzanite industry and we look forward to being a part of tanzanite’s untainted future.”
AFGEM is touting a branding campaign that it says focuses around two pillars: quality and ethics. “Our Tanzanite Foundation brand will further ensure the socially-aware consumer of the origin, mining methods and export channels of their purchase,” according to Herbstein.