A Visit to the Montepuez Ruby MinePlay
In this video, you’ll explore Mozambique’s Montepuez ruby deposit with GIA’s dedicated field gemology team. First, you’ll see how the legal owner of the mining rights—Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), a subsidiary of the Gemfields corporation—works the area in steps from prospecting through separating the rubies from the ore, to sorting and eventual sale at their Singapore rough auction. You’ll also catch a glimpse of a day in the life of the thousands of unlicensed miners—garimpeiros—who conduct unauthorized mining in the MRM-owned area.
Since spring 2009, this east African country has emerged as the world’s leading ruby source. As Field Gemologist Vincent Pardieu says of the Montepuez ruby deposit: “I have never seen any place where you have this combination of quantity, nice color, and nice clarity.”
Every gem miner dreams of finding a big stone one day. “The garimpeiros here, most of them are local (meaning Mozambican) people,” explains Pardieu, “but there are also some Tanzanians here who are working with them. And the Tanzanians have a very good knowledge of ruby mining because you have ruby mining in Tanzania for more than 50 years.”
Asked about risk, one garimpeiro adds: “Accidents used to happen…people die down there…the soil collapsed and then people die down there.”
You’ll see the conditions garimpeiros work under—the pits, the dirt—the rubies they find and how they live, and visit a garimpeiro village. “I feel I’m very welcome here!” says geologist Dr. Hsu, with a smile.
Finally, you’ll visit foreign buyers in Montepuez, which, Pardieu explains, consist of “about 500 to 600 Thai people and about 100 people from Sri Lanka.” The cash gained by these buyers provides the economic impetus for continuing unauthorized mining inside the MRM perimeter.
This GIA Field Expedition (FE56) took place in September 2014. Besides Pardieu, the participants were cameraman Didier Gruel, Field Gemologist Andy Lucas, Gems & Gemology Technical Editor Dr. Tao Hsu, and Field Gemologist trainee Stanislas Detroyat.