The Exploitation Fueling Madagascar’​s Sapphire Trade (World Monde – February 9, 2016)

ILAKAKA — The rush first started in October. With nothing but muscle power, some 100 holes, 10 to 20 meters deep, were dug in the red, dry ground. No one really knows who found the first sapphire in the locality of Ankiliabo, a bush area in southern Madagascar. But they all came running to this new El Dorado, which is accessible with a simple zebu and cart or on foot.

Among the fortune seekers is 27-year-old Jean-Louis Damlinbesoa, who traveled 15 hours in a bush taxi to come and start digging. “I need to find 30 to 50 grams of sapphire to finally be able to build a concrete house for my wife and two children,” he says. “It’s a hard job, but do I have a choice?”

With temperatures reaching 37°C (98.6°F), about 1,500 people, all unlicensed, are busy exploiting the opportunity. The miners descend into a one-meter-large hole thanks to a pulley rope uncoiling around a big tree branch. “Once at the bottom, I scratch horizontally on a maximum of four meters. After that, it’s too dangerous,” says Christian Bienvenu, who is wearing a headlamp and has dust encrusted on his face.

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Legal, illegal Mozambique rubies and legal Angola diamonds in the spotlight – by Keith Campbell ( – January 29, 2016)

Mozambique mining company Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada has made public its concerns about unfair competition by illegal miners.

The company operates a ruby and corundum mine at Namanhumbir, in the Montepuez district, which lies in the southern region of Cabo Delgado Province. It is 75%-owned by British (London Stock Exchange Aim-listed) enterprise Gemfields and 25% by local business Mwiriti Limitada.

Montepuez Ruby Mining chairperson Asghar Fakir told the Notícias newspaper that illegal mining was still a common occurrence in the area, despite a small decline.

“The phenomenon is not yet fully under control,” he said.

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Mining Company Strives to Spark Dazzling Demand for Gemstones – by Alexandra Wexler (Wall Street Journal – January 20, 2016)

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.

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World’s biggest blue sapphire found in Sri Lanka – by Sulochana Ramiah Mohan (Ceylon Today – January 3, 2016)

News broke in Sri Lanka on New Year’s Day, of the discovery of the world’s largest known Blue Star Sapphire valued at a stunning US$ 100 million and hitting the scales at an incredible 1404.49 carats.

The news spread like wild fire from Ratnapura, the City of Gems, where the stunning sapphire that has been named…… ‘The Star of Adam’ has dwarfed the next largest Blue Star Sapphire, a 1395 carat beauty on its own merit, once owned by the Guruge Brothers, but with its present ownership yet unknown.

The US$ 100 million cabochon-cut star sapphire flaunts a distinctly unique six-rayed beauty and is believed to have been mined at an undisclosed site, around August last year, between Ratnapura and Hatton, before it was sold to its current owner.

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Afghanistan aims to choke Taliban smuggling funds with gemstone bourse (Reuters U.K. – November 12, 2015)

MELBOURNE – Afghanistan aims to deprive Taliban militants of funds from smuggled exports of the prized blue gemstone, lapis lazuli, by creating its own bourse to sell the stone, which has been traded for thousands of years in the Hindu Kush mountains.

The Taliban is increasingly financed by criminal enterprises such as smuggling gemstones like lapis, rubies, emeralds, as well as heroin laboratories and kidnapping.

Afghanistan loses roughly $100 million a year through gemstone smuggling, more than the total exports of commodities like coal and industrial minerals like talc, said the country’s mining minister.

“It’s a big issue for the people of Afghanistan, because they are losing their property to groups of terrorists which on one side are stealing our property and on the other side are strengthening their terrorist group.

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Gemfields Bets on Gemstone Market’s Growth – by Russell Shor and Robert Weldon ( – January 26, 2015)

Established in 1931, GIA is the world’s foremost authority on diamonds, coloured stones and pearls. A public benefit, non-profit institute, GIA is the leading source of knowledge, standards and education in gems and jewellery.

In late November 2014, Gemfields unveiled a 40.23 ct ruby it had just unearthed from its Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique. The discovery made headlines, the kind usually reserved for large diamonds.

Indeed, when Gemfields’ CEO Ian Harebottle speaks about the colored gemstone industry, the word “potential” comes up in just about every sentence. He believes that colored gemstones’ share of luxury goods sales could increase greatly around the world—potentially rivaling diamonds—if jewelry manufacturers and retailers could count on regular supplies, stable pricing, consistent grading, and increased marketing support. He has set his company’s goals on doing just that.

Gemfields faces a tall order in catching up to diamonds. Sales of gemstones remain a small fraction of diamond sales worldwide. In the US, they represent about 8% of jewelry store sales by value, according to the 2014 Jewelers of America’s Cost of Doing Business Survey.

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Sustainable Mining: The Importance of Responsibly-Sourced Diamonds and Gemstones – by Steve Bennett (Huffington Post – September 22, 2015)

Steve Bennett is the founder of Gemporia.

This blog is part of a month-long focus around sustainable fashion across HuffPost UK Style and Lifestyle. Here we aim to champion some of the emerging names in fashion and shine a light on the truth about the impact our appetite for fast fashion has around the world.

The trade of unethical diamonds and gemstones is something that the jewellery industry has become increasingly concerned with in recent years. The film release of Blood Diamond in 2006 put the issue into the forefront, leading businesses to readdress their ethical approach following the uproar from celebrities and industry leaders alike calling for the international governments to take notice.

However, as the spotlight starts to fade, it is important that the subject remains a high profile one. The fact that unsustainable mining still exists today is because there is a demand for it; change only happens when the diamond and gemstone trade are effectively challenged. For example, over a quarter of rough cut diamonds in circulation are being processed as blood diamonds.

A ground-breaking report back in 1998 was one of the first to call out the issues of the trade; exposing the role of diamonds funding war in Angola.

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The sexiest mining company in the world – by Warren Dick ( – September 16, 2015)

And it’s not just Mila Kunis that’s bringing a sparkle to investors’ eyes.

JOHANNESBURG – So you’re probably thinking the world’s sexiest mining company is a gold company? Heavens, no! (BTW that’s so 1980’s). Is it a diamond company? Mmmm, close. But no cigar. So what is it then? Why, it’s actually a coloured gemstone miner called Gemfields, listed in London.

Gemstones comprise rubies, sapphires and emeralds – amongst many others – and Gemfields has been very good at pulling them out, hand over fist, from its Kagem emerald mine (Zambia) and Montepuez ruby mine (Mozambique).

But to call it just a mining company might be a bit restrictive. “We’re in the business of stimulating both demand for, and supply of, our gemstones,” said CEO Ian Harebottle in an interview with Mineweb recently.

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The Blood Red Rubies of Burma (DOCUMENTARY) – June 2015

The Mogok Valley in Upper Myanmar (Burma) was for centuries the world’s main source for rubies. That region has produced some of the finest rubies ever mined, but in recent years very few good rubies have been found there. The very best color in Myanmar rubies is sometimes described as “pigeon’s blood.”

In central Myanmar, the area of Mong Hsu began producing rubies during the 1990s and rapidly became the world’s main ruby mining area. The most recently found ruby deposit in Myanmar is in Namya (Namyazeik) located in the northern state of Kachin.

Ruby Country – as the Burmese call their country, which is famous for the jewels as red as blood. In the old days the rubies were in maharajas ownership. They were sold to the Europeans. Today, trade with the red rubies is fully at the hands of the military government field in the. They are currently the new owners of the mines. The golden triangle is the largest and most dangerous ruby country in the world.

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Afghanistan’s Secret Billion Dollar Emerald Mines (Journeyman Pictures – March 31, 2015)

Hidden Gems: Afghanistan is not only a country in perpetual turmoil, but also a geological miracle. Can they now harness 1,000 billion Euros worth of natural resources in order to lift the nation out of poverty?

“We have a lot of requests from Europe because the Emeralds from Afghanistan are the best in the world”, Raphael says. He’s a Frenchman who first came to Afghanistan to train Afghan security services before venturing into the emerald trade.

He sees a huge chance here to exploit a market that could easily increase in value twenty or thirty-fold, but the obstacles are not inconsiderable. Just to get to the mines Raphael has to travel the 150 Kilometres from Kabul to Panjshir, right through Taliban kidnap country.

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The curse of the blood rubies: Inside Burma’s brutal gem trade – by Dan McDougall (Daily Mail – September 18, 2010)


They are the most expensive gems per carat on Earth – and Burma is blessed with an abundance of them. The trade in Burmese rubies is banned, but as a Live investigation discovers, the country’s corrupt military junta is forcing people to mine them in slave-labour conditions to line their own pockets – and business is booming

Beneath a shroud of grey moonlight the road to Mandalay is as elusive as a ghost as it twists and turns away from the plateau and plunges down into the valley floor. Through the gloom, with our headlights dimmed to avoid army patrols, our aged Datsun painstakingly crawls along the rough gravel highway as we look for signs of life in the Burmese hinterland.

Suddenly, at a bend in a river, we see the dull glow from dozens of kerosene lamps in the middle distance. Silhouetted against the night sky men, women and children are silently clawing into loose rock with blunt iron tools and bare hands.

Squatting along the rocky bank they are risking everything; scrounging for deadly crumbs from the military junta’s table.

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Click here for detailed information about True North Gems’ Greenland Ruby Project:

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Aug. 26, 2015) – True North Gems Inc. (TSX VENTURE:TGX) (“True North”, “TNG” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has signed a share purchase and option agreement (the “Share Purchase Agreement”) with Greenland Venture A/S (“Greenland Venture”) under which Greenland Venture will purchase 5,722,940 issued A-shares (the “Purchased Shares”) of the Company’s operating subsidiary in Greenland, True North Gems (Greenland) A/S (“TNGG”), from True North for a purchase price of US$4,000,000 (approximately CDN $5,300,000).

The Purchased Shares represent 7% of the issued and outstanding shares of TNGG. Following completion of the sale of the Purchased Shares, True North will own 85.39% of the issued and outstanding shares of TNGG, which interest remains subject to a 20% earn-in right by True North’s joint venture partner, LNS Greenland A/S and LNS Denmark ApS (collectively, “LNSG”), as previously disclosed.

“This transaction will provide True North the resources for transition into the production phase of the Aappaluttoq Ruby Project, and once again endorses the importance of having a Greenlandic partner in Greenland Venture,” said Nicholas Houghton, President and CEO of True North.

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The dangerous search for emeralds in Colombia – by Joshua Partlow and Julia Symmes Cobb(Washington Post – August 9, 2015)

After taking over a major mine, a U.S. company has been met with violence

Muzo, Columbia – The chopper touched down on the hillside helipad and Charles Burgess, a cigar-chomping former U.S. government employee, stepped out to survey the full sweep of his Andean domain.

Since before the conquistadors, men have dug for emeralds in the soil of this steep-walled jungle valley. The gemstone bounty found here fueled the empire of Victor Carranza, the feared billionaire “emerald czar” who vanquished his rivals in bloody battles that left some 6,000 dead.

Now all that Burgess could see — from the green peaks where the vultures circled to the valley floor where grimy campesinos shoveled dirt in the black river — belongs to his American mining company, which has taken control of the world’s largest and most valuable emerald mine.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Burgess said. By purchasing Carranza’s share of the mine two years ago, the Houston-based company, Minería Texas Colombia, known as MTC, is now the only foreign mining company in the treacherous world of Colombia’s emerald trade — once responsible for about two-thirds of the world supply.

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Mozambique ruby mine boosts global supply – by Jessica Diamond (Financial Times – September 5, 2014)

Coloured gemstones dominate today’s global fine jewellery market, sparkling in the windows of Bond Street, Place Vendôme and beyond. Rubies, particularly the deep red colour known as pigeon blood, are among the most prized stones, but supplies had become scarce until recent months.

This was largely because of a US ban on imports from Myanmar, one of the world’s most important ruby mining countries. But human rights abuses under the country’s military dictatorship had led to sanctions.

Yet demand remained high, especially in India and China, where red is regarded as a symbol of wealth.

The ethical conundrum continued until 2012, when Gemfields, a mining company specialising in ethically sourced coloured gemstones, acquired a 75 per cent interest in the Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique.

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The dangerous world of Pakistan’s gem trade – by Adnan R. Khan (MACLEAN’S Magazine – May 24, 2014)

Inside the world’s oldest gem market in Pakistan, home to terrorist financiers and drug smugglers

“Twenty-thousand dollars.” That’s how much Jalil says the blood-red ruby he is holding is worth. “It’s not my best,” says the 47-year-old gem trader. “My best pieces I only show to people holding a bag of cash.” A hush descends over the small group of men huddled around a lamp in Jalil’s shop.

The ruby, three near-flawless carats, glimmers with a surreal clarity. Other gemstones lie scattered on crisp white sheets of paper—sapphires from Kashmir, emeralds from Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, citrine and aquamarine—making the dark, windowless office feel like a cave of treasures.

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