Tanzania is well known for its rich endowment of gemstones. The country obtains much of its gem wealth from a geological feature known as the Mozambique Orogenic Belt, which contains one of the richest gem loads on earth. Rocks in this mountain belt have undergone significant tectonism and metamorphism, which has created a multitude of gemstones, including rubies.
Tanzania’s established ruby mines, which are located primarily in the northern (Longido and Lossongonoi) and central (Morogoro) parts of the country, have been worked on and off for decades. In 2008, dealers around the world were astonished by the clarity and color of new ruby finds from Winza, an area located in the central part of the country. Several of the Winza rubies were larger than ten carats and exhibited no signs of treatment.
Around 2003, exciting reports of fine quality ruby also emerged from the Province of Rukwa in the southern highlands, an area known mainly for its remoteness. Small-scale operators are responsible for a majority of the mining activity in Tanzania, although a large-scale operation is working the Lossongonoi deposits.
In some areas, notably the remote Rukwa Province, unlicensed gem dealers are reportedly buying precious stones for “throw-away prices.” Although exports from Tanzania have increased significantly over the last ten years, experts believe the country has not yet reached its full potential as a ruby source. Dealers are very enthusiastic about the quality of recent new finds, which include stones with exceptional color, clarity, and strong fluorescence .
The government of Tanzania is actively involved in building a sustainable future for its gemstone industry. Obstacles to development include the absence of information on the size of deposits, modern mining equipment, training, transportation, gem cutting facilities, and investment capital. But as the mining operation develops, Tanzanian officials are on top of ways to streamline the expansion.
Moving further into Africa, we next explore the mining of rubies in Ruby Mines in Kenya.