Gem Mines Of India 1999-2008

After 1999, with the implementation of State Government licensing rules, small areas in India were allowed to be reopened to organized mining with strict governance and conservation measures limiting the amount of minerals and gemstone bearing rock (Pegmatite) taken from the mines. The first of these mines began to produce in the summer of 2000. Since that time, mining has been limited to certain times of the year since rains and monsoons flood the mines for several months and are unsafe to work. The months the mines are closed are usually June, July, and August with production beginning again in September.

With the tsunami in December of 2004, many existing coastal mines were inundated with sea water and walls collapsed, effectively closing the mines. Although some of these mines have been reopened, further mine exploration is taking place further inland although it is fairly limited and the cost of the mining in 2008 has led Indian gem firms to consider investing in foreign mines for the first time. These jewelry merchants are investing in mines in Russia, Africa and even Canada. The Gem and Jewellery Exports Council of India (GJEPC) has initiated talks and is exploring possibilities of investing in existing companies, setting up joint ventures for new mining and even participating in new exploration expeditions.

So far 160 locations have been mapped and identified as possible gem producing areas around the Araku Valley with rich reserves of alexandrite and crysoberyl. Sanctions from the Indian Government, control by Tribal Peoples and the lack of funded organized mining have hindered development of these mines.

Geographically, East 85 degrees Longitudinal bisects the fault from the Ural Mountains in Russia to the area of Andrha Pradesh in India and it is thought that the pegmatite that fought its way to the surface in the Urals over 2,000 million years ago is the same that is now being discovered in the Araku region of India. Certainly the alexandrite being mined in this area of India in one or two mines is of the rich saturation and coloration of the best of the Russian Alexandrite.

The color of Indian Alexandrite tends toward Emerald and bluish-green, with some having grey or blue undertones. 5,000 to 10,000 carats of rough were mined per month for 6 or 7 months in 2004 until the tsunami. The total of carats of rough in 2007 and 2008 have decreased to 2,000 to 7,000 with the larger quantity being mined during July/September/October and the lesser amount being mined in April/May/June.

Andrha Pradesh – Beach Sands – April 2008

There are at least 16 stretches of Beach Sands in this region that have been found to contain good deposits of gem rough, although alexandrite is rare.

Narsipattnamn Gem Mines Of India – 2005-2008

About 100 kilometers from Vishnakahaputnam is Narsipattnanm, where a new alexandrite mine was discovered and opened in 2005. Alexandrite crystal, so far, has been larger than mined elsewhere with satisfactory clarity and color. Within the period of 2006-2008, Alexandrite deposits have produced lighter and less saturated crystal and smaller crystal.

Vishakhapatnam Gem Mines Of India (closed December 2004 and re-opened December 2007)
The area of India known as Andrha Pradesh is particularly rich in natural resources and gems of many types. In 1996 Indian tribal members who worked in the mines in Orissa returned home. They noticed that the soil where they lived was almost identical to the soil surrounding the mines in Orissa and so decided to dig and see what they could find. Initially, what they found was gold!

Whole families started to dig holes and tunnels in the sticky and muddy soil- some as deep as 90 feet in order to mine gold. Along the way they came across rich pegmatite rock with crystals of gems stuck on the rock like cloves on a ham. They discovered that the crystals were wonderful quality alexandrite and emerald as well as other rare gems.

In the early summer of 1996, with rains making the soil even more wet and sticky, an illegal mine with over 60 miners caved in- killing over 16 people and possibly as many as 40 people. The government moved in and closed the area to any mining activity until the land could be mapped and surveyed both by satellite and physical examination of the soil and land.

The tsunami of 2004 closed the Vishakhapatmam mines until the fall of 2007 when further mining and exploration uncovered additional deposits of well saturated alexandrite albeit with a higher percentage of inclusions than in the older mines..

Samunda Gem Mines Of India (Closed 2001)

Alexandrite from the now non-producing Samunda Mine in India are very valuable in today’s market both for collectors and gemologists – especially since the mine only produced for a few years and closed in 2001.

It has been seen that mines where there are wonderful alexandrite tend only to have small pockets of them. That is because these alexandrite are mostly formed in magma pockets where (a) the chemical composition is realigned and changed due to fluctuating heat and (b) then being pushed up under great pressure through wet areas of the earth’s crust where the elements inside are added to and additionally changed. When you think of all the elements and the combinations that can be formed from them, then it is easier to see why the alexandrite finds would be smaller- because the chemical composition and RI are so specific. Conditions for this to happen with the appropriate elements and outside influences are very minute with a color-change gem such as alexandrite.

The essence of the Samunda Alexandrite is its incredible color-change. Some of the stones even change color in fluorescent lighting and it is only in strong daylight and very strong fluorescent lighting that you see the green coloration. The green, by the way, is also very intense- but unlike the Vishakpahatnum Mine, the color looks as though it is being seen through water. In addition, the tone is also darker; therefore the color-change is always more intense. The color-change ranges from vibrant, rich, purple to Amethyst-Violet, to Blood Red and Reddish-Purple.

Alexandrite from the Samunda mines are almost impossible to buy.

Russian Gem Mines

Russia historically has huge quantities of gemstone pegmatite deposits and reserves. With the breakup of the Soviet Union into Russia and Independent States much of these deposits have not been mined due to both economic conditions and the outdated mining techniques from the old Soviet Union.

Inquiries as to the total amount of Alexandrite being mined at this time in Russia have not been answered as of yet. It is known, however, that Russia has sent mining engineers to Myanmar (Burma) to discuss possible mining alliances. However, with the cyclone in May of 2008 and over 130,000 casualties of the population- mostly by the shoreline, it seems that the discussions are now on hold. Generations of families in the mining industry were casualties as well as the land involved in mining itself.

Areas of Russia that are being mined in 2008 are the Takovaya district in the Urals with alexandrite being mined in schist deposits. There is also a mine in the Takovaya area including Ekaterinburg with a few 23cm alexandrite rough specimens.

In October 6, 2005 a Russian Mining and Exploration Forum in Moscow, Russia convened. The program called for discussions on developing mineral projects in Russia as well as the technical challenges facing mining and exploration in this region. Of note- a concern being discussed is the assessment and management of environmental issues.

Significant mineral areas in Russia are located in the Urals, the far eastern end of Russia, and eastern Siberia.

One positive aspect of Russian Mining is that DeBeers, a world renown diamond consortium, has stated that it will begin to explore various areas in Russia for new diamond deposits in the fall of 2005. Geologists from both De Beers and Russia have identified over 20 promising areas that are rich in kimberlites (diamond producing rock). A byproduct of this exploration is that it may uncover more of the gem pegmatite bearing rock where alexandrite and other precious stones are found.

The Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Russia states that the Takovaja district schists produced great quantities of alexandrite since 1830. In 1995 mining was resumed but due to the low quantity and poor quality of the gems mined there, the mine was closed.

There has been much written about the mining efforts in the Tokovaya region and supposed reports of new finds of alexandrite and other precious gems. To date, little or no significant mining of alexandrite is taking place in Russia.

In October 6, 2005 a Russian Mining and Exploration Forum in Moscow, Russia convened. The program called for discussions on developing mineral projects in Russia as well as the technical challenges facing mining and exploration in this region. Of note- a concern being discussed is the assessment and management of environmental issues.

Brazilian Gem Mines

The Ministry of Tourism and the Brazilian Institute of Gems and Precious Metals ares promoting gem areas of Brazil for tourists, gemologists and investors to invest in and expand the area’s vast, as yet unmined, deposits.

The areas in Brazil that are being currently explored and mined for chrysoberyl and particularly alexandrite are the Bahia state with grayish 3cm specimens; Espirito Santo in three areas that have uncovered brownish or grayish green specimens.

The state of Minas Gerais is the site of gem producing mines in Brazil. These mines have produced a multitude of inexpensive gems for over 100 years, but it is only since 1987 that good quality Alexandrite have been discovered at Nova Era (Minas Novas) in enough quantity to export.

As with other mines containing pegmatite, the areas in Brazil are also in very rugged, and often difficult to access, terrain. Mining is under primitive and dangerous conditions, although several of the larger mines are being modernized such as the Hematitia mine which produced fine quality stones for a few years before being played out. Deposits of larger alexandrite are common although the majoritiy of the larger alexandrite is occluded and translucent rather than transparent. Very fine quality larger alexandrite have been mined in miniscule quantity.

A new pocket of alexandrite was found that has blue-green stones changing to an exciting raspberry-red, although most have been highly occluded. The gem world is waiting to see more of these gems.

The color of the Brazilian Alexandrite tends toward green with brownish tones.

Madagascar, African Gem Mines

Madagascar: Amboatondrazaka is producing yellow green specimems (as well as Anzakobe and West Ambtomdrasata)

Zimbabwe: Misvingo (Fort Victoria) has produced green alexandrite that is thumbnail size.

Mines in Tanzania and Madagascar have been producing good quality alexandrite for several years and are under the control of the ruling governments although illegal mining is prevalent. The producing pegmatite contains many sized crystals and twinning and chatoyancy are common occurrences.

The mines are in wet regions near rivers and much of the mining consists of picking through the river beds and using shovels and pickaxes to break away rock and dig through to the areas where the pegmatite can be found. Gems and rough in Tanzania go through government auction houses to be sold.

The color of African Alexandrite tends toward gray but Emerald Green has been found in both Africa and Madagascar.

Alexandrite Mining in General
As can be seen by the synopsis of mining for alexandrite in various parts of the world, the bearing pegmatite seems to surface mainly in rugged, wet, rocky terrain, with difficult access. A large majority (over 95%) of the mining is done in primitive and dangerous conditions and most mines are shut down for months at a time due to weather conditions.

These factors and the rarity of gem quality stone make Alexandrite one of the highest sought after, and highest priced, of all gems.