EDITORIAL: Plunder of minerals must be stopped now EDITOR THIS DAY DAR ES SALAAM TANZANIA is undeniably one of the few African countries endowed with rich mineral resources, ranging from metallic mineral deposits and gemstones to industrial minerals such as salt, limestone, sandstone and phosphate. It is ranked number three in gold production, a lone producer of the priced tanzanite in the world, not to mention an array of other mineral deposits that are being discovered everyday. The country has over the last decade registered a frantic growth in the export of gold posted by foreign companies that own the gold mines, an impression that one would have liked to believe that Tanzanias economy is growing fast. But a report commissioned by religious bodies to analyse the state of mining has exposed a yawning chasm between gold exports and the ingratiating poverty among the majority of Tanzanians. The report, titled A Golden Opportunity? - How Tanzania is Failing to Benefit from Gold Mining by Mark Curtis, a journalist and lawyer Tundu Lissu, shows how our natural resources are being plundered. It goes further to pinpoint that ordinary Tanzanians have played the watching role, because the mining and tax laws are overly favourable to the multinational companies and moreover, the company�s practices have further marginalised the locals. The report criticises the gold mining companies for selfishness and greed. It says taking a conservative estimate, the combined loss to Tanzania over the past seven years from low royalty rates, unpaid corporation tax and tax evasion amount to a staggering 480bn/- What is even more painful is the fact that the least from these investors the government just received a paltry 28.7bn/- annually in all taxes and royalties from the large scale gold mines � Anglo Gold Ashanti and Barrick Mines. Further, an audit report by Stuart Assayers discovered 132bn/- in tax evasion, 25bn/- in unconfirmed royalty payments and 50bn/- was never set aside by the companies for environmental rehabilitation. We want to emphasize here that the gold which is being exported by mining companies is recovered from the soil of this country, to which 39 million Tanzanians are the undeniable owners. The first beneficiary of the resources of this land should and must be Tanzanians. Now that it has become an open secret that the mining companies, which were introduced as partners in development, are here to loot and plunder, we seriously call upon the government to sit with the investors and tell them and look into ways of changing the rules of the game. We say that the report has come at an opportune time as the Mining Sector Review Committee formed by President Kikwete is about to accomplish its task. We hope the committee, headed by Judge Mark Bomani, will take serious notice of the new findings.