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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 13:09 GMT
Tanzania fights US gem boycott
The boycott stands to destroy the Tanzanite industry
By Christine Otieno in Dar es Salaam

A Tanzanian mining industry delegation has left for Washington to try and persuade US jewellers to lift their boycott of the semi-precious gem, Tanzanite.

Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden supporters are alleged to have traded smuggled gems

The boycott was imposed after a Wall Street Journal article alleged that sales of the blue-to-violet gemstones were funding the al-Qaeda network.

The mining industry in Tanzania - the only country in the world where the gemstone is found - has been hit hard by the boycott, announced last November.

Minister for Energy and Minerals Edgar Maokola-Majogo heads is leading what his ministry is calling a "high-powered" delegation.

Representative of the Tanzania Miners Association met the minister in the capital Dodoma this week, warning him that the boycott could effectively wipe out the Tanzanite industry.

Terror allegations

Tanzania exported 80% of its Tanzanite to the United States until the publication of the Wall Street Journal article.

The report alleged that Muslim extremists loyal to Osama Bin Laden had been buying the gemstones in Tanzania and smuggling them to Dubai and Hong Kong, where they were sold to finance al-Qaeda.

Ironically, support opposition to the US boycott has come from the Americans themselves.

A study funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has said there is no link between Tanzanite mining and terrorism.

The study has been submitted to the Tanzanian government and is due to be presented on Friday at the first ever Tanzanite seminar in Tuckson, Arizona.

The report does, however, recognise the massive anomalies between Tanzanite sales abroad and revenue received from the gemstone in Tanzania itself.

The Tanzanian Government last year recorded sales of $16m worth of Tanzanite yet the United States alone recorded sales of over $300m.

Minister Makola-Majogo told the BBC that he would raise smuggling - which had caused the revenue anomaly - at the seminar.

He said he was optimistic about his US trip, which will begin with talks in Washington with representatives of companies that are boycotting Tanzanite.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | South Asia
UN sanctions target al-Qaeda
04 Oct 01 | UK Politics
The UK's Bin Laden dossier in full
22 Jul 01 | Africa
Tanzania's pot of gold
17 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Tanzania
23 May 01 | Africa
Timeline: Tanzania
14 Jan 00 | Africa
The human cost of gold
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