An interesting article in Colored Stone last December 2005 gives a summary of gemstone mining around the world. As the article points out, accurate figures and information are extremely difficult to obtain in the notoriously secretive industry. However, it makes interesting reading for those interested in gems and where they come from.
The section on Australian sapphire mining is somewhat incomplete but is excerpted here for your interest (our comments follow):
World Mining Report (December 2005):
“The same difficulties — operating expenses and government regulations — are affecting Australian sapphire mining. One notable exception is the Gloucester corundum deposit in New South Wales, which is producing large quantities of ruby and fancy-colored sapphire, although most are in sub-carat sizes. Reports indicate that 12.5 kilograms of gem-grade ruby and sapphire were recovered during a two-week period in August. In central Queensland, new regulations have opened up more area for sapphire mining as well as opal mining; as a result, approximately 500 sapphire miners are working throughout the region. Large-scale mechanized mining has been hampered by a continuing drought, and a decrease in local buyers has made funds hard to come by. The future remains uncertain.”
One thing they did get right is the last sentence: “the future is uncertain“. The Australian sapphire industry is struggling for survival at the moment. While we have persevered in the hope that market conditions will improve, it has not yet happened. However, to imply that there is only one sapphire mining operation that is producing good quantity is misleading.
The corundum (ruby and sapphire) mined at Gloucester by Cluff Resources does not represent a major portion of sapphire production in NSW, Australia. While this mine produces an excellent range of fancy colours, including some that can be classified as ruby, the stones are generally very small. Company reports released to the market to date indicate weekly production of gem grade ruby/sapphire ranges from about 3 to 6 kg.
In contrast, sapphire mining in the New England region including the largest sapphire mine in NSW (at Kings Plains) and a smaller mine on the renowned Reddestone Creek provides continuous production in large quantity and good range of size (including large stones exceeding 5 carats). Current production from this area runs at about 250 kg per month of corundum in all sizes of (about 13 kg/week gem grade sapphire). There is capacity to double this production at short notice in response to market demand. Buyers looking for stable and continuous supply are advised to review
mine run specifications and contact us or Jack Wilson for more information.
We still have faith in the sapphire industry and hope that more buyers will start to appreciate the advantages of doing business in a safe and stable country where origin and lack of any heat treatment is absolutely guaranteed by the miner.
cheers for now from Andrew (Aussie Sapphire)