World Mining Report 2005 – Asia

Colored gemstone mining is a hard thing to pin down. The vast majority of mining is still done by independent, small-scale miners, working in remote locations and selling to buyers who pay cash and may or may not declare their gems on export. For many producing countries, particularly in Africa, the real production from the mines probably outstrips the reported production by a factor of 10 -- or 20, or possibly 100. No one really knows. In compiling this report, weve included estimates from both official and unofficial sources, but in some cases there simply isnt any information available. This report isnt intended as a comprehensive list of gemstone deposits; its a guide to the most active mining areas in the world right now, with the humble acknowledgment that no matter how much we see, theres always more out there.

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By Morgan BeardMore from this author

This article page is a part of the article "World Mining Report 2005" for November - December and includes estimates from both official and unofficial sources of active mining deposits in Asia.

Related Article: World Mining Report 2005 - List of Countries



Cambodia has two main stone-producing regions. Pailin province, in the west of the country bordering Thailand's Chanthaburi province, has seen a steep decline in the production of sapphires, but many of the smaller mines are still producing.

The second mining region is in Ratanakiri province, in the northeast of the country bordering Vietnam. Blue zircon has been coming out of the province for years, and the amount is increasing as the stone's demand increases. The mines in Ratanakiri also produce small amounts of amethyst, peridot, and black opal.


China is a big and geologically diverse country that produces a wealth of minerals, but the nature of operations there makes it difficult to pinpoint where gemstone mining is taking place. Globally, most gem mining is done by small companies or individuals, but in China everything is controlled from the top, so small operators are stifled and there is little exploration.

Yunnan Province bordering Myanmar to the west and Laos to the south produces some emerald, but so far in small amounts and not as good as Colombian material. Emerald also comes from the Taxkorgan deposit in Xinjiang Province in the west of the country.

The Hunan region produces peridot, and peridot is coming out of other parts of China, too, but no one can pinpoint the precise locations. The quality is not that of Myanmar or Pakistan, but the flood of material has dominated the lower end of the peridot market for the past decade, although supply appears to be slowing.

In Shandong, sapphire can be found in large sizes, but most of the material is so dark that it is almost black. Some dark blue sapphire is also coming from Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

Turquoise is produced in Yunxian, Zhushan, and Hubei Provinces.


Although India is known mainly as a gem-cutting center, gemstone deposits are located in several states. The government restricts mining, however. In addition, some mines along the coastline collapsed in the tsunami of December 2004, though several have reopened.

The state of Orissa is considered one of the major sources of gemstones in India, producing a variety of gemstones, including ruby, sapphire, aquamarine, heliodor, garnet, cat's-eye chrysoberyl, topaz, zircon, iolite, and tourmaline. Most of these gemstones range in quality, though the garnet is exceptionally flawless.

Several gemstones are mined in the state of Rajasthan, including amethyst, aquamarine, emerald, feldspar, fluorite, and garnet. Some deposits have produced good-quality stones in the past few years, especially fluorite from the Dungarpur area.

The state of Andhra Pradesh is also becoming well known for its gem deposits. Good-quality stones of alexandrite, garnet, ruby, and tourmaline, for example, have been found here.

Alexandrite has also been found in Araku, Narsipattanm, and Vishakhapatnam, but most of the gemstones lack the dramatic color change of Russian alexandrite.


There are only two known gem mines in land-locked Laos, and they are adjacent on the same deposit in the west of the country — Ban Huay Xai, in Bokeo Province, which borders both Thailand and Myanmar. One mine is run by French interests and the other by Australian interests. Government corruption makes working in Laos difficult, however, and the mines are now producing only a small quantity of blue sapphire, mostly commercial quality.


In recent years, it has become even more difficult to get a read on the mine situation in Myanmar (formerly Burma), because the country has become so closed. But dealers in Thailand estimate that as much as 80 percent of the global supply of rubies still comes from the politically isolated country.

There are many individual mines in the sprawling Mogok region, northeast of Mandalay in the central part of Myanmar. The area is most famous for its ruby and produces most of the country's peridot, but many other stones also come from there, including sapphire, spinel, moonstone, and tourmaline.

Mong Hsu, in the eastern central part of the country, is Myanmar's second-largest mining area. It produces mostly ruby and sapphire of lesser quality than Mogok's, although the quantity is far greater.

North of Mogok, in Kachin state, the Namya stone tract continues to produce pink sapphire and red spinel. The quantities are far smaller than those of Mogok, but the quality is said to be exceptional.

Production has fallen as much as 10 percent over the past few years, dealers estimate. Getting exact numbers is difficult because so many of the gems are smuggled.

Myitkyina, the northern region of Myanmar bordering China, remains the only place in the country where jadeite is mined. The area's supply continues to meet the growing demand for jadeite. Nephrite jade is also mined there in large quantities, but jadeite remains the favored.

Sri Lanka

Although most of the mining areas in Sri Lanka were not directly affected by the tsunami of December 2004, the resulting destruction and death contributed to a rise in the overall costs of labor, energy, and land.

Sri Lanka continues to produce sapphire in a variety of colors, including blue, pink, purple, and yellow, but not in large quantities. Pink sapphire, in particular, is currently in very short supply. Some unusual colors have also come out of the mines, including mauve and fuchsia.

Several relatively new, productive mines are Kantale, Horana, Mihintalaya, Ragala, and Bogawantalawa. The Elahera district continues to be known for sapphire, spinel, zircon, garnet, and iolite.

High-quality material has been difficult to find in the Ratnapura district, where mining has taken place for thousands of years. Production is limited, as many of the mines are becoming depleted. But the district continues to supply the market with a variety of gemstones, such as sapphire, spinel, ruby, hessonite garnet, beryl, alexandrite, and sheelite.

A primary deposit of aquamarine, of large quantity and good color, was recently discovered in the Balangoda region of Ratnapura. Other recent discoveries include topaz in Akurella and quartzite in the Opannayaka region of Ratnapura, but there is no sign yet on whether any of these deposits will impact the market.


Thailand has a long history of mining, and it remains a center for cutting and heat treating. But there is little rough currently coming out of Thai soil.

Kanchanaburi Province, bordering Myanmar, continues to produce blue and, to a lesser degree, yellow sapphire. But the stones are getting smaller and harder to find by the year. Where once more than 50 miners worked the area, there were only three in late 2005. The blue sapphire is considered good commercial quality and sometimes slightly better, including some stones of five carats and larger.

Chanthaburi province, bordering Cambodia on Thailand's eastern border, was once Thailand's other major gem mining region, but now has only one mine — Bang Kacha (sometimes spelled Bangkraja). It continues to produce blue, green, yellow, and star sapphire, but the amount that comes out of the province is small, although still more than Kanchanaburi.

Many dealers speculate that big sapphire deposits remain undiscovered in Chanthaburi province, but they are in the military buffer zone along the border with Cambodia. With stability in Cambodia continuing, some of those areas could open for exploration.


Vietnam is producing small amounts in several places, but no areas are producing large quantities of good stones.

The best gemstones are coming from the Luk Yen area in Yen Bai province northwest of Hanoi, along the Red River about halfway to the border with China. The mines there, bunched into one small valley parallel to the Red River, produce pinkish-red ruby of commercial grade and sometimes a little better. Some star ruby is found there, too.

A smaller amount of blue and green sapphire and spinel is also coming from the mines there, as well as aquamarine and topaz.

Mines around Quy Chau northwest of Vinh in Nghe An province are producing ruby, sapphire, aquamarine, and chrysoberyl. But again, the quantities are minimal and not high quality.

In the southern half of the country, in the central highland provinces of Dac Lac and Lam Dong, there are even smaller amounts of yellow and blue (some say it is almost greenish) sapphire. Although the amount of stones is negligible, it has the potential to expand. Lam Dong province also produces topaz crystals, and there are small amounts of amethyst, aquamarine, peridot, and tourmaline.

Jade is found in the northwest of the country in Son La Province. It is used for carvings sold in tourist centers, but is not considered to be gem quality.

By Gordon Austin, Morgan Beard, Mick Elmore, Cara Woudenberg, and Megan Zborowski
2005 November/December
In association with
This report was produced in collaboration with the International Colored Gemstone Association.

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Morgan Beard

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