Major Sapphire find in Sri Lanka
A new, substantial discovery of a primary deposit
of sapphire has taken place in the southwest of Sri Lanka,
in the town of Kolonne, some 70 kilometers south of Ratnura,
the island gem center. The deposit was uncovered by chance by a farmer,
who was removing scrub from a field before planting onions.
The new site has already yielded several thousands of carats
of good quality blue sapphire, although most of the goods mines
have induded gueda-type sapphire and yellow tourmaline.
Speaking to Jennifer Heartens of Jewellery News Asia,
ICA member Gamini Zoysa, a professional geologist, said that
the sapphire deposits are easy to mine when they are
located in pocket, about 12 meter,
underground, but at a depth of 23 meters they are found in veins
and need to be extracted using more sophisticatd miining methods.
"From a geological point of view" Zoysa said, "this [find] is
particularly interesting because the crystals have formed right here on this location,
as opposed to the usual sapphire deposit in Sri Lanka which are alluvial,
and weathered and washed down from other areas."
Henricas, together with ICA members Zoysa, Marc Tremonti
of Australia and Mariana Photiou of the United States visited the
site in January and observed hundreds of miners. Most of them local villagers,
digging the earth in search of sapphire crystals.
While the locals have received formal permits to mine the site,
mining activities are not coordinated. Some miners have bored shafts
in an effort to reach the gem bearing veins. The absence of proper
ventilation in the tunnels is being dealt with by miners
carrying candles that are extinguished when the oxygen levels
fall dangerously low. Other miners are digging tunnels from the
side of the mountain. "Some veins follow the line of the
slope of the hill, others are at an angle, while other
veins are horizontal" a miner told Henricus.