Je wewe unasemaje kutokana na hii habari ? Africa's new bloodstained gems Children dig for tanzanite, coltan in dangerous mines -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Posted: December 2, 2001 1:00 a.m. Eastern By Anthony C. LoBaido © 2001 WorldNetDaily.com While human slavery is a fact of life in African nations like Mauritania and Sudan, Tanzania now is emerging as the latest center for the exploitation of child labor. Today, young children are forced to work in the country's mine, harvesting the valuable mineral resources of tanzanite, coltan and diamonds. Tanzanite, a semi-precious, purple-blue gemstone unique to Tanzania, was discovered for the first time 24 years ago by the Masai tribe. Its uniqueness and stunning beauty make it as sought-after and as valuable as diamonds. The resulting tanzanite mining rush lured thousands of Tanzanians and refugees from neighboring Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. "Tanzanite is torn from the volcanic rock of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania by the tiny hands of African children," reports Dutch journalist Adriana Stuijt, a former anti-apartheid activist who maintains an anti-censorship website. Stuijt describes children working under the "most abominable mining conditions of the 21st century, digging away for coltan, the black mud of the Congo so essential for the world's cellphone industry." The United Nations has condemned the child-slavery practices at the coltan mines and blames the mines for fueling the civil wars plaguing the region. Reportedly, Amnesty International has also been petitioned to probe the dreadful working conditions and child slavery observed in tanzanite mines located in Arusha, Tanzania. "American jewelers import tanzanite to the tune of $300 million a year. Ninety-five percent of this is exported illegally from Tanzania via low-paid 'informal' miners. Many are children who are digging inside dangerous, unsafe homemade mineshafts for as little as $2 a month, or even just food handouts," Stuijt told WorldNetDaily. "Do the American women adorned with these stunning and unique gems even know that most of these were torn out by African children's hands, digging and hacking away at the Tanzanian volcanic rock often forced to live in deep, unsafe mineshafts where many have already drowned horribly?" "Until recently 'Tanzanian Rush' miners used mainly picks and shovels to dig out the gems," reports the South African Afrikaans language newspaper Beeld. "Individuals and groups of miners dig life-threatening shafts as deep as 300 meters, usually without any kind of supports or ventilation. ... On April 12, 1998, at least 100 miners drowned in such shafts, which had flooded during a terrible storm. And in 2000, flooding again drowned many." Beeld also reports prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse are rife; AIDS is a major problem; and there is no healthcare or sanitation. According to the paper, a trade union representative confirms that thousands of children work in the mines because they can move around so much easier in the narrow shafts. "Parents encourage their children to work there because there are no schools near the diggings," Martha Bitwale of the Tanzanian women's mineworkers association told Beeld. There is one exception to Tanzania's cruel trading game: A small proportion of the total tanzanite payload, $18 million worth, now is being mined safely and responsibly using modern safety techniques established by African Gemstones Ltd., or Afgem, a high-tech South African mining company that doesn't employ child labor. Afgem is a South Africa based company with offices in Johannesburg. The company received its mining concession from the Tanzanian government in mid-1999. Since January 2000, Afgem has mined 4,216 tons of tanzanite ore at its site at Mererani, northeast of Arusha. Despite having the government's blessing, Afgem encounters stiff opposition, as Beeld reported in August: "At the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, a South African mining company is mining a unique gemstone amidst great animosity from surrounding communities. At first sight, the mining compound looks like a military base in former South West Africa. High security fencing, razor wire, uniformed guards, guard dogs, guard towers. All for very good reasons ... "It's the old African story: Foreign investments and developments aren't welcomed by everyone even if the mining company was invited and licensed by the Tanzanian government. Afgem's team was welcomed with open arms in fact by the Tanzanian government but not by the 40,000-odd local informal miners who are practically tearing the gemstones from the rocky soil with their bare hands." "Local miners believe we are stealing their daily bread," said a top Afgem official at the site. "They bear great animosity towards the only international group." The Washington Times reports that the Tanzanian government was unapologetic about child miners slaving at Arusha tanzanite mines, while trying to woo foreign investors gathered in Washington, D.C., in August. "Tanzanian Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye spared few superlatives in trying to sell his East African country to an American audience as a haven for foreign investors," reports the Times. Sumaye "cited its low-cost labor, strategic location and a series of 'vigorous economic reforms' undertaken by President Benjamin Mkapa. These include the privatization of state-owned enterprises, relaxed rules on the repatriation of profits and reduced tax burdens. At a luncheon hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa, which seeks to bring together Americans and Africans for business opportunities, Mr. Sumaye boasted about the shift toward free markets and privatization after decades of a failed socialist experiment." "The Tanzanian government's big problem," reports Beeld, "is that very little money ends up in the national treasury because of the uncontrollable illegal trade. Official statistics show that Tanzania exports tanzanite valued at only $8 million annually, but the USA the largest importer of tanzanite imports $300 million annually." This thriving illegal trade is born on the backs of child slaves. Says Struijt, "If there was ever a crime against humanity, this is it." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Anthony C. LoBaido is a longtime contributor to WorldNetDaily.com. He now lives in Florida and maintains a blog called "The Walls of Jericho."