MERERANI - In the mines near Mererani in the north of Tanzania, miners search feverishly for tanzanite. Everyone hopes one day to find a beautiful large specimen of the unique gemstone and to become rich in one fell swoop. In recent years the government has taken extra measures to keep as much of the tanzanite yield as possible in their own country.

Gemologists discovered tanzanite in 1967 and described it as a blue variety of the mineral zoïsite. Tanzanite is only found in a narrow strip in the Mererani Hills, barely eight kilometres long and two kilometres wide. The chance that tanzanite will ever be discovered elsewhere in the world is estimated by geologists to be less than one in a million. The rarity and the deep blue to purple colour make the gem highly sought after.

The idea of earning a few hundred, sometimes thousands of euros from finding a tiny stone attracts a lot of fortune seekers. But Mererani has a bad reputation and is sometimes compared to the Wild West. Journalist Lisa Develtere went to Mererani to shed light on the severe working conditions in the mines, and to trace the stories about gangs, fights and murders.

€3.200 allocated on 26/06/2014.

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  • 'In één klap steenrijk', MO*, 2/09/2015.

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