‘Substantial progress’ already has been made in the effort to track tanzanite from the mine to the retail jewelry industry, say members of the Steering Committee of the Tucson Tanzanite Task Force.
The four-member committee includes Douglas Hucker, executive director of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA); Richard Krementz, Krementz Gemstones, Cecilia Gardner, executive director and general counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC); and Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America (JA). All were in Tanzania during the first week of April for an initial inspection of the Tucson Tanzanite Protocols. Visiting both the city of Arusha and the mine site at Mererani, members said they were very pleased to see that progress was being made.
In response to publicity of various news agencies alleging a link between the tanzanite trade and terrorists, leaders representing a variety of organizations met during the AGTA Gem Fair at the Tucson Convention Center Feb. 8 and 9. Immediately following the meeting the Tucson Tanzanite Protocol was announced. The protocol lists a series of steps to track the precious gem from the mine to the retailer and ways to ensure compliance. The task force was created as part of that effort.
Members of the group met with many stakeholders, including government ministers; the Mererani Reconciliation Committee; the Zonal Mining Office; the U.S. Embassy; miners and dealers associations of TAMIDA and AREMA; and AFGEM, the South African mining company. The task force also visited mining blocks A, B, C, and D at Mererani, touring both independent mine sites and AFGEM facilities.
Gardner spent a half day examining records of tanzanite production and trading kept by the Arusha Zonal Mining Office. “Arusha’s mining office is where you would go if you were exporting rough or polished goods,” notes Gardner. Traders and brokers are required to file documents here. “I think that they have thought through what’s required for credible record-keeping,” says Gardner, adding that she suspects this has been in place for quite some time. Gardner’s positive evaluation of export records coincided with the task force seeing no evidence of large-scale smuggling into Kenya.
Areas needing improvement including conditions at the mine site as well as transportation to the regional office, notes Gardner. “The government is working very hard to improve and strengthen the controls they have to address these issues,” she says. And with economic disincentives in place, smuggling is quickly becoming a non-issue. “For the best return on your investment and with the tax structure being reformed, you’d want to do it legitimately,” she says.
“We’re very pleased with the controls already in place,” Hucker adds. “The efforts of the government have dried up the smuggling into Kenya.” Hucker also noted that the paper trail is quite good.
“Essentially every gram of tanzanite is legally exported,” Krementz says. He notes that the task force examined every step from mining through export, independently of the Tanzanian government. “There was tremendous cooperation by the Tanzanians.”
As a next step, the Mererani Reconciliation Committee is expected to submit a report on improving the orderliness of tanzanite mining, establishing stable relations between small- and large-scale miners, especially involving disputes with those mining close to AFGEM.
Cecilia Gardner examining records of tanzanite production and trading kept by the Arusha Zonal Mining Office.