The Steering Committee of the Tucson Tanzanite Task Force spent the first week of April in Tanzania to check the status of the Tucson Tanzanite Protocols. The committee visited the city of Arusha and the mine site at Mererani and said it was pleased to see that “substantial progress” already had been made.
Committee members are Douglas Hucker, executive director of the American Gem Trade Association; Richard Krementz, Krementz Gemstones; Cecilia Gardner, executive director and general counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee; and Matthew Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America. The week included meetings with government ministers and members of the Mererani Reconciliation Committee, the Zonal Mining Office, the U.S. embassy, the mining and dealers associations TAMIDA and AREMA, and South African mining company AFGEM. The Task Force also visited mining blocks A, B C, and D at Mererani, touring both independent mine sites as well as AFGEM facilities.
Gardner spent half a day examining records of tanzanite production and trading kept by the Arusha Zonal Mining Office, where traders and brokers are obliged to file documents. “Arusha’s mining office is where you would go if you were exporting rough or polished goods,” notes Gardner. “I think that they have thought through what’s required for credible record-keeping.” The Task Force saw no evidence of large-scale smuggling into Kenya.
Areas needing improvement include conditions at the mine site and 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. In addition, she notes, economic disincentives are quickly making smuggling a non-issue: “For the best return on your investment, with the tax structure being reformed, you’d want to do it legitimately.”
“We’re very pleased with the controls already in place,” says Hucker. “The efforts of the government have dried up the smuggling into Kenya.”
“Essentially, every gram of tanzanite is legally exported,” reports Krementz, noting that the Task Force examined every step, from mining through export, independently of the Tanzanian government. “There was tremendous cooperation by the Tanzanians,” he says.
As a next step, the Mererani Reconciliation Committee is expected to submit a report on improving the orderliness of tanzanite mining and establishing stable relations between small- and large-scale miners, especially in regard to disputes with AFGEM.