Tanzanian Artisan Miners Grapple with Life

Tanzanite Mine in Mererani.

Tanzanite Mine in Mererani.

“I would have given up on this work long ago had it not been because of the urge that one day it will enable me to marry a beautiful wife and owning a house” laments a 28 year old Charles Limu an artisan miner in Tanzania who has spent the last 13 years toiling in a mine without success.

The story of the 28-year-old Limu is not any different from that of the other artisan miners who are struggling to make ends meet by offering cheap labor in Tanzania’s emerging extractive sector.

For Limu his journey began some 13 years ago when he left his native home in Tanga and moved some 500kms to Merelani Tanzanite Mine with the hope of making a fortune.

Today at 28 years, limu looks back with regrets that he has not been lucky to succeed by working as a laborer in a tanzanite mine in Tanzania.

“I have not been lucky I have tried all what it takes with the hope of hitting a fortune but I have been so unlucky. I really don’t’ know why because some people come here they work for two weeks and return back to where they came from with a lot of money” Limu who just at 28 looks like a man in his late 50’s explains hustle he goes through in his everyday life in a mine.

But what keeps a man’s hope alive when all seems lost?

“My friend I “I would have given up on this work long ago had it not been because of the urge that one day it will enable me to marry a beautiful wife and owning a house” Limu says he would love to stop working in a mine

Life in the mine

“Once you come here it’s not possible for you to go back home I for one only go there when I have got something little for my mother and other young siblings I do this when I have bought new clothes form myself so that I also look good” Limu whose face has turned ‘black’ explains that they hardly bathe in the mine.

He says they go for days and even weeks without bathing depending on the time one spends deep inside the mine.

 The risk

‘Very many people have died here sometimes they get buried in the mine and it’s more dangerous when water enters inside the mine and it’s a known thing here that when people die it brings luck to the mine” Limu explains the myth surrounding the deaths in the mine.

But despite the realty on the ground hundreds of people have continued to flock and settle in mining areas with the hope of making their lives turnaround.

Merelani Township is among the new emerging urban centers that have come up as a result of massive move ment of people to new mining areas.

Merelaniwhich started as a small center in 2008 today has 50,000 people.

The local leadership in Merelani is grappling with how to address the social problem in the mine.

Members of Manyara Regional Miners Association in Tanzania are pushing for the establishment of an Export Processing Zone-EPZ in Merelani Township to promote local development.

The association which is comprised of 700 members is now demanding that the Tanzanian government establishes an export processing zone for Tanzanite mineral in the township of Merelanito spur local development.

There are currently three major companies-Tanzanite One, Tanzanite Africa and Kilimanjaro Miners which are prospecting for the mineral in the area.

But the local miners in the area claim the three major companies have not contributed to the development of the area because they export the mineral to process from outside countries. They argue that this has deprived the locals the opportunity to benefit from the mineral.

Albert Siloli the Chairperson Mererani Township explains that the establishment of an export processing zone in the nearby Mererani Township will stimulate development because hundreds of people will be employed to work in the processing industries.

Siloli argues that the establishment of an export processing zone will put the economy in the hands of the locals and bring in place value addition. He says that most of the youths who have failed to find fortune in the mines will be absorbed to work in the small scale industries that will be setup in the export processing zones.

Mirisho Nyari a local politician and owner of a mine also says the establishment of an export processing zone will boost the development of other small scale industries in the area.

But will the EPZ solve the problem faced with individual miners who work under very squalid conditions without any form of protective gear?

Amisi Idiyoba who has been the chairman of Arusha Mining Association for the last 18 years argues that the best way to improve on the status quo of the people in the mines is by the government of Tanzania putting in place laws that protect the rights of small scale miners.

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