By Theresa Braine
(New York Daily News) — Small-scale Tanzanian miner Saniniu Laizer struck a rare-gem lottery for the third time this summer, unearthing a 14-pound hunk of tanzanite worth $2 million.
In June he had mined two stones, weighing 20.43 and 11.26 pounds, eclipsing the previous record of 7.3 pounds. He sold them to the government for $3.35 million, reported USA Today, citing Tanzania’s Ministry of Minerals.
The third time being a charm, Laizer last week extracted yet another.
The deep-blue and violet gems, which also can be green, red and purple, are 10 times rarer than a diamond and rival the sapphire in intensity, according to Turkey’s Anadolou Agency newswire. They are used in ornaments and jewelry.
Laizer could have sold the stones at retail value, or to smugglers, for more money. But he said he would rather help his country by selling them to the government.
“Selling to the government means there are no shortcuts,” Laizer said at a ceremony celebrating his second find at the northern Mirerani mine, according to BBC News. “They are transparent.”
They are only found in northernmost Tanzania, which is how their name was derived. The government has erected a 15-mile-wall around the perimeter of the rich mining region in an effort to keep the country’s wealth within its borders, a measure that Laizer said he supports.
“We Tanzanians have decided that minerals should first benefit us as a country; it is enough for us being brokers to others and let our minerals go and benefit them while our communities remain poor,” Laizer said, according to WION-TV out of India. “For example, in many mining areas business has gone up. Even areas where there was no business, now things have changed.”
The artisanal miner, who has four wives and at least 30 children, plans to use the money to help his community in the Manyara region of northern Tanzania, telling BBC News that he will fund a school and a health facility.
He had nothing but encouragement for fellow miners.
“I am sure we can get bigger stones than this. Hard work pays,” Laizer said during the handover ceremony for the second check, according to Anadolou Agency. “I urge other small-scale miners not to lose hope. I have spent over 10 years doing this business. Let them hope it will pay them well one day.”