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<nettime-ann> [ann] Bokeo and Chantaburi mines, Lao, Thailand
xavier cahen pourinfos.org on Thu, 27 Oct 2005 21:45:45 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime-ann> [ann] Bokeo and Chantaburi mines, Lao, Thailand

  Actu. /pictures for news - des photos pour infos
[french version below]

Bokeo and Chantaburi mines, Lao, Thailand.
(Chanthaburi, August 30, 2005).

Ou / or
Ou / or

Bokeo and Chanthaburi mines, Laos and Thailand.
(Chanthaburi, August 30, 2005)

The Bokeo valley is located all along the Mekong River at the crossing
point of Thailand, Myanmar (the old Burma), and China. Laos, one of the
least developed countries in South-East Asia, is only surviving with an
economy essentially based on farming. However, this region is not as poor
as the others because of fruitful commercial exchanges. Parallel to its
rice production, lumber trade and poppy culture in the Golden Triangle
(opium and heroin are derived from poppy flowers), huge gems deposits are
laying in this valley whose name means ?valley of the sapphires?. This
land became a highly coveted one because of sapphires 
and rubies.

In fact, sapphires belong to the corundum gem family. The label
?sapphire? is granted to all corundum gems excepted red ones, which
characterizes rubies. Traditionally, sapphires are blue, but since the
19th century the term sapphire is applied to all transparent corundum. It
is custom then to specify the color when they are not blue. In fact,
green, yellow or pink sapphires can be found. Sapphires generally come
from Mesozoic rocks belonging to the metamorphous type composed of sands
and alluvium clays. In a raw state, they look rather like small round
opaque and cask-shaped pebbles. These days, the richest and most 
productive deposits are not only situated in Sri Lanka, but also in
Burma?s Mogok region; they are not as profitable in Laos. Cashmere?s
famous cornflower blue sapphires are almost impossible to get.

Mining exploitations in Laos have various dimensions, from shovel to
excavator, but still remain family or village size enterprises. Farmer
and child labor is used for digging huge holes in the middle of rice
paddies with the hope of finding one?s fortune and the stone that would
change a whole life?

Small operations are mainly using shovels, sieves and pumps in order to
protect themselves from a possible drowning caused by water coming from
nearby rivers and rice fields; water is constantly oozing in from porous
sides. Younger workers are given the hardest tasks; they are digging with
their shovels at the bottom of the excavation. Hiring remains the main
resource; a full workday would not often bring anything at all, at the
best, a one-carat sapphire? These gems will sooner or later all end up on
the Chanthaburi market.

The Chanthaburi mining region is a Thai town but also a province located
close to the Cambodian border. It was the first ruby producer in the
world in the 80?s.

Rubies have always been considered the most precious stone. The color
indicates where it comes from; a pale or paler red and a pink color stone
would be from Burma or Sri Lanka, as a dark garnet almost burgundy red one
from Siam origins. ?Pigeon blood? color rubies have great reputation; they
are very rare and even more expensive than good quality diamonds.

The Chanthaburi mining centre is no longer a major one since its ruby
production is almost gone and has been replaced by industrial type yellow
sapphire exploitations. In this region, mines are scarce but large. Most
of the time, mechanical shovels are tossing and digging the ground all
day long using plenty of water in order to separate the sapphires from
the sediment. In spite of this situation, Chanthaburi still prevails for
the size of its rubies and the quantity of its sales; 80% of them are
passing through Thailand. An amazing gem variety coming from everywhere
in the world is offered to merchants.

The main supply sources of raw gems are the Mong Hsu region in Burma, Pai
Lin in Cambodia, Ratnapura in Sri Lanka, and more recently, in Africa with
the Tanzania, South Kenya and Madagascar mining areas. 
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