A million artisanal gold miners in Madagascar wait to come out of the shadows – by Emilie Filou (The Guardian – November 15, 2016)


The downturn in commodity prices has hit the mining industry globally but in Madagascar, it coincided with the end of a five-year period of turmoil, precipitated by a coup in 2009. Any hopes for the sector to propel itself back on the development track were dashed.

“Lots of mining companies came to Madagascar to explore [before 2009] but then we had the political crisis, with all the uncertainty and lack of visibility it brought, and even though we had elections in 2013, that uncertainty has not really lifted,” said Willy Ranjatoelina, executive secretary of the Madagascar Chamber of Mines.

In the mid-2000s, Madagascar had given the green light to two large-scale mining projects: Ambatovy, a $8bn (£6.4bn) nickel and cobalt project developed by a consortium led by Sherritt International, and QMM, a $1bn ilmenite project developed by Rio Tinto. Since then new projects have dried up.

Read more

Illegal mining, weak government help Taliban expand in Afghan north – by Jawad Kakar (Reuters India – November 7, 2016)


FAIZABAD, AFGHANISTAN – Afghan Taliban militants have strengthened their grip on lucrative illegal mining operations in the north of the country, as security forces focus most of their efforts on battling the insurgency in the volatile south, officials said.

Abuses by local commanders with private militias and beyond the purview of central government have also driven people into the hands of Islamist fighters, the officials added, making it easier for them to profit from small-scale mines in the region.

“The Taliban provide protection for the villagers to mine and the people are happy to do it despite the fact that there’s a presidential decree banning any uncontrolled mining,” said Gul Mohammad Bedar, deputy governor of Badakhshan province. He estimated that the militant group, fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government in Kabul, raised about a third of its funding needs in Badakhshan from deposits of minerals, including semi-precious lapis lazuli, found in its mountains.

Read more

This startup is protecting Afghanistan’s prized rare emeralds – by Parija Kavilanz (CNN Money.com – August 29, 2016)


In Afghanistan, where decades of warfare have ravaged the country, there’s a beautiful green oasis tucked between the mountains that’s home to something rare and precious.

The Panjshir Valley, located north of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, is an area rich with more than 172 emerald mines. Known as Panjshir emeralds, the gems boast a unique bluish-green color that make them among the country’s most-iconic treasures.

Entrepreneur Habib Mohebi grew up in Kabul hearing about the emerald mines from friends local to that area. Years later, that knowledge would reconnect him to his homeland in a distinctive way.

Mohebi is the co-founder of Aria Gems, a company that mines and exports Panjshir emeralds.

Read more

The dark side of gem stones in Colombia and beyond – by Eugen Iladi (Columbia Reports – July 26, 2016)


The global market for colored gemstones, such as emeralds and rubies, is dominated by a few major players. One of the largest is Gemfields Plc, a U.K.-registered, London Stock Exchange-listed company with significant mining operations in Zambia, Mozambique, India, Sri Lanka and, recently, Colombia.

At first glance, things appear rosy at Gemfields, but a closer look reveals questionable deals and associations. As with blood diamonds, the precious stone trade purports to offer transparency, but many of its practices are murky and dark.

In September 2015, Gemfields announced a series of acquisitions in Colombia. The main target was a 70 percent stake in the Coscuez emerald mine in the mountainous province of Boyacá, one of the world’s best sources of emeralds.

Read more

Emerald city: How gemstone-rich Colombia is embracing ethical sourcing – by Nathalie Atkinson (Globe and Mail – July 15, 2016)


It may be churlish of me to highlight this during wedding season, but as scientist and jeweller Aja Raden points out in her cultural history Stoned, gemstones are “just colourful gravel.” She elaborates on the fraught history and desire around precious objects – pearls, emeralds, wristwatches – with diamonds as one cautionary tale via Marie Antoinette, whose downfall was precipitated by jewellery.

The human history of attraction to bright shiny objects has not exactly been about supply chain integrity or corporate social responsibility – instead, think envy, greed, violence, suffering, slavery, incursions and the guillotine.

To understand the role of gems and jewels in luxury today, it’s necessary to consider, as Raden does, the brilliant “A diamond is forever” campaign that De Beers whipped up in 1947 after the South African diamond rush that saw the company gain control of 99 per cent of the planet’s diamonds.

Read more

New funding to boost ruby mining – by Martin Creamer (MiningWeekly.com – July 4, 2016)


JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Coloured-gemstone miner and marketer Gemfields announced on Monday that it had finalised four new debt financing facilities totalling $65-million.

Gemfields CFO Janet Boyce said Gemfields now had the necessary funding to increase its rough ruby production to 20-million carats a year and rough emerald production to more than 40-million carats a year in the next three years.

The company outlined that nearly 70% of the new funding was destined for the Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique. Headed by CEO Ian Harebottle, Gemfields is a London-headquartered Aim-listed multinational natural resources company in which JSE-listed Pallinghurst, headed by Brian Gilbertson, has a key investment.

Read more

Money from Afghanistan’s ‘conflict jewels’ fuels war – activists – by Josh Smith and Mirwais Harooni (Reuters U.K. – June 7, 2016)


KABUL – The illegal mining of some of Afghanistan’s most important minerals is funnelling millions of dollars into the hands of insurgents and corrupt warlords, according to activists and officials who say the money is fuelling the conflict.

The mountains of Afghanistan hold as much as $1 trillion (£693.58 billion) to $3 trillion in mineral resources, according to estimates by the U.S. and Afghan governments, including world-famous lapis lazuli, a deep blue, semi-precious stone that has been mined in northern Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province for thousands of years.

“In the current circumstances, where 50 percent of the mining revenue is going to the Taliban, and before that it was going to armed groups, by any reasonable definition lapis is a conflict mineral,” said Stephen Carter, a researcher for Global Witness, a non-profit watchdog that investigates the links between natural resources, corruption and conflict.

Read more

Greed, Corruption and Danger: A Tarnished Afghan Gem Trade – by Mujib Mashal (New York Times – June 5, 2016)


KABUL, Afghanistan — The local people called the militia’s takeover of the giant lapis mine in northeastern Badakhshan Province a white coup — easy and bloodless. Perhaps, but the seizure has become a lesson in how the lack of accountability and rule of law in Afghanistan can turn bounty into ruin.

Riding waves of excitement after a 2010 report by the United States military that Afghanistan’s mineral wealth could be worth as much as $1 trillion, the Lajwardeen Mining Company won a 15-year contract in 2013 to extract lapis lazuli in Badakhshan. For thousands of years, Afghanistan has been one of the chief sources of lapis lazuli, a prized blue gemstone associated with love and purity and admired by poets as well as jewelers.

Valued at about $125 million a year in 2014, the lapis trade had the potential to be worth at least double that, and Lajwardeen, owned by an Afghan family in the import-export business for three generations, saw a great opportunity.

Read more

The Blood Rubies of Montepuez [Mozambique]- by Estaio Valoi (Foreign Policy – May 3, 2016)


Some 40 percent of the world’s rubies lie in one mining concession in Mozambique, where a troubling pattern of violence and death contradicts the claim of “responsibly sourced.”

MONTEPUEZ, Mozambique — Mila Kunis embodies just the kind of woman that Gemfields, the world’s leading supplier of rare colored gemstones, wishes to entice: young, sensual, enigmatic — and affluent.

The 32-year-old Hollywood actress, best known for her roles in Black Swan and Oz the Great and Powerful, is the star of Gemfields’s promotional short film, showcasing jewelry made by top designers with stones mined at Montepuez, the world’s largest ruby concession and one of Gemfields’s latest acquisitions.

Located in northern Mozambique, Montepuez is thought to hold 40 percent of the world’s known supply of a precious stone that, since antiquity, has been associated with wealth and royalty.

Read more

From Muzo emerald mine, Colombia’s ‘green fire’ goes global – by Richard Emblin (The City Paper – March 29, 2016)


Changing an industry with a sometimes dark past

Green was the color of the day, from the stripes on the Bell helicopter, to the pilot’s gloves and headset, to the precious stones glittering within the mountains below.

Just a 40-minute chopper ride northeast of Bogotá, the famed Muzo emerald mines of Colombia are undergoing a profound physical and cultural transformation. In the central department of Boyacá, a North American company is formalizing a once outlaw industry still tarnished by its violent past.

Until his death from cancer in April 2013, Victor Carranza was the undisputed czar of Colombia’s “green fire.” Over the decades, illegal actors in the nation’s armed conflict vied to overtake the lucrative business, including left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries.

Read more

(Gemological Institute of America – February 12, 2016)


When it comes to selling colored stones, a retailer’s supply-chain knowledge has tangible benefits at the counter – or wherever the point of sale happens to be.

That’s what Andy Lucas, GIA’s education manager of field gemology, and Dr. Tao Hsu, technical editor and research specialist for Gems & Gemology, told local GIA alumni and Women’s Jewelry Association members at GIA’s Carlsbad campus on Jan. 13. Lucas and Hsu have traveled the world together to discover and document what happens as a gemstone travels from the mine to the market.

The allure of colored stones has not changed much over the centuries, Lucas said, so retailers need to share the romance and adventure. “The people who are more knowledgeable about the story are better at making customers feel comfortable, at gaining their trust and at piquing their interest,” he said.

Read more

Pardieu Brings Ruby Rush to Life with Stories, Updates from Madagascar – by Jaime Kautsky (Gemological Institute of America – March 10, 2016)


A gem “fingerprint.” That’s what Vincent Pardieu, senior manager of field gemology for GIA in Bangkok, and his six-person team are looking for as they traverse the globe – and log hours in the lab – finding, analyzing and cataloging colored stones for GIA’s Colored Stone Identification and Origin Report reference collection.

So when Pardieu’s team learned of a newly discovered ruby deposit in northeast Madagascar in July 2015, they arranged a field expedition and set to work investigating and documenting the rubies of the island nation’s Zahamena National Park.

On Nov. 4, just a month after their trip, Pardieu and field assistant Manuel Diaz visited GIA’s Carlsbad campus to share their findings − and sometimes harrowing experiences − with students and staff.

Read more

Bad Blood the Color of Rubies – by Eric Konigsberg (New York Magazine – February 11, 2016)


A Jewelry Feud, Set In Jaipur and on Madison Avenue

On a recent morning when Siddharth Kasliwal came downstairs, his mother dropped a sheaf of papers on the table in front of him. “Potential brides,” he said later. “There were some party pictures, clippings about their families. My mother is getting impatient. There are 15 to 20 serious candidates, and already in my life I’ve met seven or eight of the girls.”

Siddharth, or Sid to his friends, is 31: handsome, cultured, deferential, occasionally preening — at once humbled and entitled by his privileged birthright as a ninth-generation co-owner of the Gem Palace, India’s most glamorous jewelry business. The Gem Palace was a sleepy favorite, before he was born, of Jackie Kennedy, Marella Agnelli, and Lord Mountbatten, among others.

Now there are satellite boutiques around the world, including in Istanbul, Tokyo, and New York. His father, Munnu, and an uncle, Sanjay, were the public faces of the business for decades.

Read more

The Exploitation Fueling Madagascar’​s Sapphire Trade (World Crunch.com/Le 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.

Read more

Legal, illegal Mozambique rubies and legal Angola diamonds in the spotlight – by Keith Campbell (MiningWeekly.com – 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.

Read more