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With 2 Rocks, Small-Scale Miner Strikes It Rich

Newser — Arden Dier

A miner in Tanzania has become an overnight millionaire with the discovery and sale of the two largest known tanzanite gemstones ever found. Until last week, the largest known chunk of tanzanite—one of the world's rarest gemstones, believed to be found only in a small northern region of the East African nation—weighed 7.2 pounds.

Then Saniniu Laizer, a small-scale miner with a government license to prospect for the gem, pulled up two pieces weighing 20.4 pounds and 11.25 pounds, respectively, per Al Jazeera.

On Wednesday, Laizer, who has four wives and more than 30 children, promised "a big party" and the slaughter of a cow after selling the two multihued gemstones to the country's mining ministry for $3.4 million, reports the BBC.

The 52-year-old Laizer also vowed to invest in his own Simanjiro district in the Manyara region.

"I want to build a shopping mall and a school," said Laizer of the Masai community, noting "there are many poor people around here who can't afford to take their children to school." He said he'd continue to look after his 2,000 cows while his children ran operations.

The trade was broadcast on national television, per Bloomberg, as was a congratulatory call from President John Magufuli, who said the discovery "proves that Tanzania is rich." Magufuli came to power in 2015 with a vow to protect the mining sector and draw more government revenue from it, per the BBC.

He ordered a 15-mile wall built around Manyara's Merelani mining site near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, thought to be the only source of the gemstone, in 2017.

But illegal mining remains an issue, and one local geologist estimates the supply could run out within two decades.

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