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World Mining Report - Eastern Europe - November/December 2005

By Gordon Austin, Morgan Beard, Mick Elmore, Cara Woudenberg, and Megan Zborowski
November/December 2005


Eastern Europe

Baltic Amber Region
The Plazhova strip mine, located in the Kaliningrad Zone of Russia, produced approximately 70 percent of the global supply of raw amber until the mine flooded in 2001 due to over mining. The mines collapsed, and legal mining has since been restricted in the area. Approximately 90 tons of amber were extracted from the area in 2004, compared to 1,000 tons in 1996, while amber prices have almost doubled each year since the flood.

Ukraine also has amber deposits on the Volyhn-Polesie border; Poland has deposits in the mining areas along the Vistula River delta. Currently, the yearly production for the Baltic states is approximated at: Russia, 140 tons; Ukraine, 40 tons; Poland, 15 tons; Lithuania, 5 tons.

Russia is the original source for alexandrite, one of the rarest gemstones in the world. The mines, discovered in the Ural Mountains in 1834, produced for only a few decades and have long since closed. There have been unconfirmed reports of new activity in this area, but no significant amount of material has hit the market yet. Russian alexandrite is still considered highly valuable -- it's known for its remarkable color change -- and will usually fetch premium prices for stones of high quality.

The Ural Mountains have also been a famous source for high-quality demantoid garnet. After more than a century of little or no active mining, new material has been unearthed in recent years, but mining continues to be sporadic. Miners believe that the area still holds high-quality, rich green material, but licensing problems, disputes over mining rights, and a short mining season continue to hamper production.

The material produced at the mines is lighter in color -- closer to a mint shade of green -- than the fine, rich green material Russia is known for. Both the quantity and size of this material is relatively small, with sizes ranging from 2.5 to 4.5 millimeters, but the stones found have been bright and clean.


This report was produced in collaboration with the International Colored Gemstone Association.