Located in the southeastern area of Africa along the Indian Ocean, Mozambique shares borders with other ruby-producing countries of Tanzania and Malawi. After nearly 500 years as a Portuguese colony, Mozambique achieved independence in 1975, but has been fraught with civil wars and flooding in the decades since that have devastated much of the population.
Recent years have seen continuous economic growth in agriculture along with tapping into its rich resources of natural gas, titanium, and hydroelectric power. Ruby mining has also emerged as a newer element in the economic sector that appears to be very promising for the worldwide ruby supply.
Corundum, the chemical compound that constitutes rubies, has been a known element in the region, originally discovered in the 1500s, but no commercial exploitation of it occurred until after the country’s independence and period of civil war. Some rubies from Mozambique began to enter the market in the early 1990s and then again in the mid-2000s.
It wasn’t until the late 2000s that more substantial ruby discoveries happened in the Niassa and Montepuez regions of the country. By 2010, GIA reports showed that Mozambique rubies had come to dominate the Thai market, although the sources of the stones came mostly from unlicensed and untraceable miners and merchants.
A year later in 2011, one of Mozambique’s largest mining companies partnered with the British company Gemfields to establish the Montepuez Ruby Mining Company. This effort has produced a considerable streamlining of the process with improved infrastructure, machinery, and security. As mining has ramped up, members of the trade are beginning to recognize Mozambique as the largest modern ruby supplier in the world today.
It should come as no surprise that a treasure trove of rubies may be at the heart of Mozambique when considering its geography and geology. The northeastern part of the country is at a juncture of the Mozambique Belt and the Zambezi Belt formed by the famed river. This meeting of geological complexes produces ideal thermal and deformational events that provide ideal temperatures and pressure for forming ruby, garnets, and other minerals.
Currently, a small but significant portion of the ruby material retrieved has color and clarity that requires no heat treatment. The area is also producing such a large quantity of rubies, the market is seeing an influx of a wide range of qualities and sizes – much more than in previous years.
As the area continues to see heightened interest and a flood of rubies being produced, large scale mining operations have come into conflict with the smaller, artisanal miners and mining staff being brought in from the dried-up Thai fields. If rubies continue to be uncovered in record numbers, the potential for further clashing may only increase. But so far, it appears that there are more than enough natural rubies to be mined for everyone.
With the completion of the main ruby-producing countries of Africa, we return to Asia to explore another two important regions, starting with Ruby Mines in Afghanistan.