LUFWANYAMA, Zambia—A little-known mining company is modernizing the rough-and-tumble colored gemstone trade, hoping to generate diamond-caliber demand for its emeralds and rubies.
At the world’s largest emerald mine near Zambia’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gemfields PLC is pulling millions of carats of the shimmering stones out of the ground every month.
In November, a few dozen workers armed with shovels and giant screws chiseled at an open pit of banded black, red and white rock at the sprawling Kagem mine. Fragments were sent to “the washroom,” where some 50 workers wearing overalls crouched over conveyor belts, using metal hooks to find emerald traces.
Closely watched by gemologists and security personnel, the pickers dropped rocks containing emeralds into plastic bins next to the workstations. A giant photo of actress and Gemfields brand ambassador Mila Kunis sporting a sparkling green necklace decorated the area.
For the year ended June 30, Gemsfield’s revenue totaled $171 million. In addition to Zambia, the London-based company operates in Mozambique and holds exploration licenses in Madagascar and Sri Lanka. It employs about 2,000 people.
The Zambian operation has helped the company—which is listed on AIM, the London Stock Exchange’s small-cap market—dominate a fast-growing and increasingly lucrative sector. Gemfields owns 75% of the Kagem mine, with the Zambian government owning the remainder.
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