Tanzania Take Measures to Protect Tanzanite

February 22, 2002

Tanzania Take Measures to Protect Tanzanite

Upon his return to Tanzania from Tucson, AZ, Minister of Energy and Mines Edgar Maokola-Majogo instituted new measures to protect the tanzanite trade from terrorist infiltration. Maokola-Majogo attended the Tanzanite Summit in Tucson, held during the weeks of the gem fairs.

As part of the new measures, any miner in the Merelani region of Tanzania must immediately register and receive updated identity cards. While miners at Merelani have long had to register with the government, critics said the system was prone to abuse. But Maokola-Majogo's office says it has moved to eject any unregistered miners in the area or those with no specific business mining tanzanite. New measures to bolster security of the area are being instituted.

Tanzania said it was acting on the advice of the Tucson Tanzanite Protocols, drafted in in early February. The office of energy and mines says it's preparing documents to accompany rough tanzanite and other gems out of Merelani into the international market, to further assure the gems' legitimacy. Industry sources say the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania plans to brief the press in early March on the progress made by Tanzania to control its gem trade.

"We have seen no evidence that al Qaeda or any other terrorist group is currently using tanzanite sales to finance their efforts or to launder money," says Michael J. O'Keefe of the U.S. State Department, Bureau of East African Affairs. "Further, there is no evidence that the sale of tanzanite played any part in the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon."

A coalition of industry associations, including leaders from Jewelers of America, Jeweler's Vigilance Committee and the American Gem Trade Association, say they are planning to release information and talking points for jewelers aimed at generating retail and consumer confidence in tanzanite.

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

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