Like many of its Asian neighbors, Laos has its share of rubies. This is not surprising given its proximity to the ruby deposits of northern Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. The international border Laos shares with Thailand and Myanmar is known as the “Golden Triangle” because of its reputation for lucrative and illicit trade in jade, silver, lumber, opium, and, of course, rubies.
Corundum mining has been known to occur in the Bokeo Province of northwestern Laos since the 14th century. In fact, the literal translation of Bokeo is “gem mine.” There are also reports of new ruby mines in the southern portion of the country.
The most famous corundum mine, Ban Houay Xai, has been worked sporadically since the late 19th century, but it was closed in 2000 due to charges of corruption and significant production has not resumed. Small-scale mining is reportedly occurring in the area and in other locations around the country, however. In many instances, farmers dig huge holes in the middle of their rice paddies with the hope of finding a fortune in natural rubies.
Laos is renowned mainly for its sapphire mining and trade in that specific colored gemstone, as well as the precious metals of gold and silver. While rubies may be lesser known, they are incredibly popular in the local market and often are transported into neighboring ruby markets of Vietnam and Thailand.