Tag Archive for 'Gems'

A gamble with death for Afghan emerald miners in the Hindu Kush

Crude techniques for mining emeralds destroy assets and risk disaster, geologists warn. From the Guardian:

A cigarette dangling from his mouth, Zubair Amin casually pulls out a plastic carrier bag containing five kilograms of high explosives and scoops out a couple of handfuls, which he warms up on a metal shovel held above a gas lamp.

Heating up a combustible mixture of old Russian ordnance and Pakistani fertilizer would be a dangerous thing to do nearly anywhere. When it’s done at the end of a long tunnel in the mountains of Afghanistan, it’s near suicidal.

After the mix has been warmed to its correct temperature and stuffed into a hole drilled in the rock face, into which a short, 45-second fuse is inserted, a group of three emerald miners turn tail and run through a tunnel 1.2 metres (4ft) high and more than a hundred metres long in a bid to evacuate the mine before the blast. More:

Who’s buying Burma’s gems?

In The Christian Science Monitor, Danna Harman reports from Rangoon:

burmajade.jpgIt’s the last hour of the last day of the gems auction in Rangoon, and tired buyers are fanning themselves with worn auction catalogs, and making their final bids.

Over the past five days, jade, rubies, sapphires, and close to $150 million have passed hands here, according to the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., the consortium that dominates Burma’s gemstone trade and is owned by the defense ministry and a clutch of military officers.

Who’s buying? China, India, Singapore, and Thailand are scooping up Burma’s stones. US first lady Laura Bush’s efforts at a global boycott of Burma’s gems seem to have done little to reduce China’s appetite for Burmese jade to make trinkets and souvenirs to sell at the Summer Olympics.

[ Photo: A Burmese worker washes jade prior to an auction