Not everything can change in Mirerani, overnight

31Mar 2018
The Guardian
Not everything can change in Mirerani, overnight

CONTRASTING news is being heard from Mirerani, the capital of the tanzanite industry which the fifth phase government is now taking measures to put it firmly under national control, to enhance dividends from the presence of this rare gemstone in the country.

This has taken nearly 40 years to be thought out and then put into practice, but it now appears some things are changing, with the Great Wall of Mirerani now coming up and fast, billed to take a stretch of 24.5 kilometers around the mining area.

This work that President John Magufuli handed to the defence forces is being capped with a live electric fencing atop the long wall, to wit.

While this change of habit is taking the tanzanite market by some kind of storm, on the whole it was likely to be mitigated as tanzanite isn't a raw material that needs expertise to put to some scientific processing before it can be sold.

But there is still a difference between obtaining the stones from the ground and polishing them for marketing, where national ambitions are still trying the waters, as to how far the tanzanite industry as a whole can be localized.

Ideas are still being examined as to whether it is just a question of value addition in a direct manner like making cotton fabrics or an issue of branding and marketing that has its specific rules.

There is use here to remind ourselves of the reality in the diamond industry, that often some major powers have sought to break the monopoly of some Western marketing cartels especially tied to the South African firm of De Beers, and its links with Antwerp traditional diamond products market.

A major global producer of diamonds, Russia, has in the past tried to break this trading monopoly which acts as a check on brands and quality, with difficulty as it proved more or less impossible to break that mechanism.

Diamonds are basically a gift item apart from its industrial use, which is a different issue - involving a rather narrow market anyway.

When it comes to gift items, and tanzanite is another gift item even if it is of lower sensitivity than diamond, the part that branding takes could be inordinate by certain estimations, and often hard to break apart, also for that reason.

In that case expectations that the whole of the tanzanite industry can be put under national control could be met with partial success on account of inability to polish and brand locally, even if it is possible to polish locally.

What is sold isn't the polished material but the sort of creations to be made out of the polishing, and what sort of clientele is expected to take up, and as in diamonds, goodwill is the main key.

There is another aspect of things at Mirerani that caught public attention lately, namely efforts to compel those who conduct artisan mining of the product to employing the basic labour force working in the pits.

Studies show that the more mechanised the mining the higher is its portion that is properly employed, in which case diamonds lead at Williamson Mines, and then gold mining in Acacia Mining sites particularly, and much lower rates for tanzanite, where only the major mining sites have employment levels being documented, not artisan mines.

Thus efforts to get all those who work at Mirerani to be employees would threaten the productivity code and throw its costing matrix into chaos, instead of improving conditions.

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