Four tanzanite mines especially those run by small-scale miners in Mirerani area of Simanjiro District, Manyara Region have been closed down to pave way for investigation of the recent killing of Tanzanite One miner, Willy Mushi.
Assistant Commissioner for Minerals in northern zone, Eng Benjamin Mchwampaka, announced closure of the mines, when speaking to hundreds of Tanzanite One mining firm’s workers gathered in the area on Tuesday evening.
The closed mines all in Block D are owned by Joseph Mwakalinga, Abdurahakim Mulla, Jackson Simon and Maningoo and are close to Tanzanite One mine.
Mchwampaka said a team of investigators were expected in the area to probe the matter, which has raised tensions.
He said the experts are expected to release the findings as soon as possible to enable the government to take action against those found to be behind the killings.
The official asked all people who have invaded areas legally owned by Tanzanite One investor to move out or face punitive measures.
The commissioner admitted that boundaries between mines owned by the investor and small-scale miners weren’t clear especially underground.
The Chairman of Tanzania Association of Mining and Construction Workers' Union (TAMICO), Raphael Ombade said Tanzanite One workers have suspended the three-day strike and resumed work following the initial government action to address the conflict.
Police in Manyara are holding one Joseph Mwakalinga in connection with the killing of the Tanzanite One worker last Saturday, when he was underground inspecting the mine shaft.
Mushi was shot dead on Saturday night around midnight as he and a colleague, one Kennedy Masimbaji, conducted routine inspection of the mine shafts.
“When we reached the area where there is a boundary between our mine (Tanzanite One) and that of small-scale miners, we were attacked,” explains Masimbaji, friend, survivor and sole witness.
He explained that at some point, the company’s mining shaft overlaps with that of the small scale miners and it is at one such point that they were attacked with live fire and Mushi was shot twice in his chest killing him instantly.
“They fired live bullets at us…my colleague died on the spot after being hit by two bullets,” Masimbaji said.
Concerns were high as reports have it that the incident is not isolated but rather part of increasing wave of attacks by small scale miners against the big investor and his employees.
“...this happens whenever we meet with them underground,” Leonard Paul, another staff worker for Tanzanite One said noting that such incidents are increasing.
The incident follows the death of five small scale miners after their mine ‘accidentally’ collapsed on them.
Also, it comes as a study released over the weekend revealed that the Tanzanite mines of Mererani are the leading TB hot spot in the country due to extremely poor working conditions caused by failure of the firms to their observe corporate responsibility causing numerous untimely deaths of many youths.