DAR ES SALAAM, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian Minister for Minerals Dotto Biteko on Sunday ordered all gold-processing plants in the southern highland region of Songwe to suspend production following reports of smuggling out of the country.
"Intelligence reports show that some of the gold processors are not honest. They are smuggling processed gold out of the country," the minister said on a visit to inspect mining activities in the region.
He said some of the gold processors in Songwe region, bordering with Malawi and Zambia, were not adhering to regulations provided for in the gold processing business.
In March, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa launched a gold bullion market in Geita, a region in northwest Tanzania, and warned of punitive measures against smugglers.
The launch of the market was in line with President John Magufuli's directive to ensure that Tanzania takes a lead in international gold business.
Majaliwa said the government will not tolerate anyone taking gold across borders in search of higher prices.
Security has been enhanced to control minerals smuggling and to make sure that every Tanzanian benefited from the endowed natural resources, he said.
Robert Gabriel, Geita regional commissioner, said the newly launched international gold bullion market outfit is expected to boost earnings of small-scale miners in gold extraction as well as to optimize government revenues.
According to the Federation of Miners Association of Tanzania, there are more than 6 million small-scale miners across the country.
An estimated 40.5 million people were in direct engagement with artisanal and small-scale mining in 2017, up from 30 million in 2014, 13 million in 1999 and 6 million six years before, it said.
The mining sector contributes around 4.8 percent to Tanzania's gross domestic product (GDP), according to the government.