East African Emerald Mines   - Hamed Wardak
East African Emerald Mines – Hamed Wardak

Chama Emerald Mines

In Chama exists the world’s most significant emerald producing pit. This mine remains a combined effort between the country of Zambia and a leading supplier of colored gemstones from ethical sources. Approximately one-fourth of the world’s supply of emeralds originates from this area and mine.

The experience of searching for emeralds in this region feels like looking for a spot of green in a gray sea. When seeking out these gems in the mine’s pit, high-pressure water jets spray one part of the 160-meter-deep mine pit. Once the area gets sprayed, it sparkles with sunlight. Both mica and emeralds gleam in the sun. Soon, a lovely green glint gets discovered in the bright light.

How did Emeralds Develop?

East African emeralds remain significantly older than similar gems from other parts of the world. About half a billion years ago, a rare occurrence happened in this locale. A half-billion year’s old pegmatite stone containing beryllium and even older talc magnetite schists came into contact. During this event, a reaction occurred, and an exquisite green gem, the emerald, mineralized. Once humans found this strikingly beautiful stone, it was bound to become a favored gemstone.

East Africa remains one of the most recent areas where emeralds get mined. In contrast, east African emeralds are some of the oldest gemstones to get discovered. Their green hue comes from the elements of chromium, beryllium, and iron in combination.

More about Emeralds

Fine emeralds, like those found in east Africa, remain 20 times rarer than fine diamonds, making them very valuable. East African mines use controlled explosions to loosen up the gems found while trawling the mine floor.

East African Emerald Mines and the Environment

East African emerald mines remain a scar on the landscape of the surrounding area. Mining continues as long as the demand for precious stones such as emeralds remains. Local mining companies understand that the open pits are ugly. They do lessen the effect of these pits by using only non-hazardous chemicals in their mining process. Their aim remains to avoid polluting the environment, and they also recycle a significant amount of water used in the mining process, too.

Once mined, the emeralds become transported in secure, padlocked boxes to the sort houses for further processing.

After miners collect the visible emeralds in the pit, the company’s wash plant breaks the stones into more manageable pieces. Next, the stones pass through the mine’s plant via conveyor belt. Workers on both sides of the conveyor select the green gems from other types of rock, where they once again get placed into double-padlocked boxes and transported to the sorting house.

Hamed Wardak on Emerald Mines
Hamed Wardak on Emerald Mines

At the sort house, emeralds become separated from the host rock. About 100 tons of earth excavated produces about 50 grams of beryl and emerald mix. Emerald production provides a boon to the neighboring communities, as companies support local farmers and businesses. These mines also offer local health care and educational services to nearby towns.