There are around 400 small independent mines in the Arusha area, none with any health & safety that you'd recognise. A small patch of land on the surface can often have tunnels going down 300m or so. Lighting, power and air are almost non existent and it can sometimes take 45 mins to reach the mine face. As the tunnels aren't properly developed until they find minerals, the miners often have to squeeze through 18 inch high tunnels at over 45 degrees angle.
They work very long hours and often see little daylight. It is poorly paid and often they find nothing, sometimes for many months. The protective clothing of choice is denim.
Traders go to the Arusha area because of the unique geological formation of the area, which provides gems and minerals not found anywhere else on the planet. Amongst these is the famed Tanzanite, until recently regarded as a poor mans sapphire.
This gallery follows not only the mining but also the trading and negotiating between brokers or representatives of various mines.
Haggling is normal, with traders being presented with anything from one small stone, to several bagfuls. Once a price has been agreed the spoils are wrapped in newspaper, barrelled, and shipped over to their destination for immediate sale or polishing.