Not many people get to visit a gemstone mine in Africa. So when Gemfields invited me to be part of a press trip to Zambia’s Copperbelt Province—to Kagem, the single largest emerald mine in the world—I jumped at it.
Like India, Zambia was once a British colony, and was known as Northern Rhodesia till it gained independence in 1964. Because of this, almost everybody speaks English, which makes life very easy.
We reached the mining camp on the night of 14th June, and were quickly shown to our rooms. After we had showered, we gathered at the Lake House, the mining camp’s watering hole. As I had been warned, I took care not to step on the sinuous trails of dangerous army of ants that moved like dark mercury across the walkways. One bite from a single ant is said to be excruciatingly painful. Imagine stepping on an entire foraging party!
The Lake House is exactly what the name suggests. It is a recreation area built on stilts on the bank of a small lake adjacent to the camp compound. This is where the higher-level employees of Gemfields’s Kagem mine congregate every evening to entertain themselves, and sometimes, guests like us.
The general mood in the Lake House is always welcoming, with everyone wanting to talk to you, making sure your cup always runneth over. And the lake itself hosts a guest: a crocodile named Number Seven (because he was the seventh one to live in the water body). Kevin Gallacher, mine overseer and all round host-with-the-most, is in charge of the Lake House and its entertainments, and he told me about the lake’s famed crocs. “This one is a baby; he’s just a metre and a half long,” he said.