The truth about mining....

As an ethical jeweller, I like to be completely transparent about where my materials come from, and this weekend, I have seen two pieces about two opposite ends of the spectrum about mining. I hope you enjoy this recent blog from one of the main places that I buy my “newly mined” gemstones from:

And in complete contrast, please also have a look at this link to a BBC new story about an awful illegal gold mine collapse in Afghanistan where 30 people have been killed:

The following is copied and pasted from Nineteen48:

26NOV That’s Not Just a Hole in the Ground – Types of Mines in Sri Lanka

When most people hear the term “mining”, they usually think of a large scale operation, such as a diamond mine, where the pit can be up to 1 mile across and the gem material buried deep in the Earth’s crust. It is said that these monstrous holes can be seen from space.

In Sri Lanka, nothing could be further from the truth. The mines are classified as ASM (Artisanal Small-scale Mining) and are typically run by a team of 6-12 experienced miners with simple equipment and techniques. This has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, but very importantly, it is much more environmentally friendly.

The most basic operation is shallow mining, where the gem gravel (known as goda illama – literally, “surface gem gravel”) is only 1-2 metres below the surface and can be extracted very easily with minimal impact on the surrounding environment or danger to the miners.

Where the illama is slightly deeper, the mining team undertakes open cast mining. The top layers of soil (up to several metres) are removed, either manually or using an excavating machine, to expose the gem gravel, which is then extracted. As the miners are only interested in the gem-bearing gravels, the other material can be easily replaced to restore the land to its previous state. With open cast mines, it is usually the case that the land recovers within a few months and is soon ready for reuse.

Another type of mine that is very common in Sri Lanka is a simple shaft mine, designed to extract yati illama (yati means “underneath”). These mines are of wooden construction and built using local materials, as far as possible. The surface opening typically measures a few metres square and the depth can be in excess of 20 metres.

The shaft itself is formed using wooden supports (called tattuwa) which are placed about every half-metre. The mine depth is normally quoted in a number of tattuwa, giving an approximate indication of the depth. The sides of the shaft are packed with branches and other natural material to prevent erosion. The shaft is usually protected from the elements by a temporary “shed” structure, again made mainly from wood and branches or palm leaves. These sheds are clearly visible from the main roads in Sri Lanka’s mining districts and are easy to dismantle once the mine is completed.

Where necessary, the shaft mines will also incorporate underground mining (known as dona pathal), as the miners follow the seams of gem gravel from the main shaft by digging tunnels (called donava) up to a few metres in length. Of course, depending on the depth of the shaft, this can be quite a hazardous undertaking and the miners must exercise extreme caution.

The last type of mining is the least common and involves dredging river beds for the gem gravel or even diving into deep rivers to recover the illama. Of course, the impact on the environment of this activity could be very detrimental and it is extremely rare for the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) to give permission for such operations, since the damage done could be irreparable.

Overall, however, the mines in Sri Lanka are well regulated and constructed in such a way that they leave no lasting scars on the countryside. The restoration of mining plots is monitored by the NGJA. The miners themselves are typically very respectful of the environment and their techniques and materials reflect that.

By conducting mining with these restrained and small-scale methods, the industry in Sri Lanka maintains employment for tens of thousands of people in a controlled, sustainable and responsible way.

And Here’s the BBC story:

At least 30 people have been killed in the collapse of a gold mine in north-eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

The collapse occurred in the Kohistan district of Badakhshan province.

Villagers had reportedly dug a 60m (220ft) deep but makeshift shaft in a river bed to hunt for gold and were caught in its collapse.

Afghanistan has vast resources of minerals but many of the mines are old and poorly maintained, creating severe safety issues.

Villagers were reportedly using an excavator at the site when the mine collapsed.

At least seven other people were injured, officials say.

Kohistan district chief Rostam Raghi told the BBC's Afghan service: "Locals rushed to the scene and managed to rescue only 13 workers. Dozens of others, including some children, died."

Nik Mohammad Nazari, spokesman for the provincial governor, told Agence France-Presse: "The villagers have been involved in this business for decades with no government control over them.

"We have sent a rescue team to the area, but villagers have already started removing bodies from the site."

A spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority told AFP the families of the dead would receive 50,000 afghanis ($660; £520).

Afghanistan's vast resources remain largely untapped due to the conflict with the Taliban.

The conflict has seen the rise in illegal mining both by villagers and Taliban fighters who use it as a key source of revenue.