The colored gemstone sector is dominated by artisanal and small-scale mining. Though specific numbers are hard to come by, most sources estimate between 80 and 90 percent of colored stones are mined by small groups or individuals digging their own mines and extracting stones with rudimentary tools or collecting them in riverbeds.
And yet today, big companies are mining some of the market’s most commercially important stones, like Colombian emeralds and Mozambican rubies. Mozambique, in fact, has become the world’s most productive source for gem-quality ruby since the discovery of deposits there in 2009, according to GIA.
The stones, which now mostly originate from the Montepuez area in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, are mined at concessions held by Gemfields and Fura Gems.
Meanwhile, in Colombia’s Boyacá department, Muzo Emerald is mining underground for the country’s much-coveted rich green gems in a historic area high in the Andes Mountains. As the influence and production of these larger mining companies continues to increase, it will be important for said companies—and the industry at large—to monitor their impact on local communities.
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