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Rubies from Pakistan


Untreated rubies from the Hunza valley, Pakistan – Photo by Ted Themelis

Due to the extensive smuggling of Afghan rubies into Pakistan, many do not realize that Pakistan has its own wealth of gems that are underexploited. The ruby deposits here are primary deposits, initially discovered in the 1980s. Like the Afghanistan material, these rubies are mostly cabochan and carving grade. There is small, transparent material under a carat produced too.

History of Ruby Mining in Pakistan

Most mining occurs in the north of Pakistan, with the government leasing out land for mining to promote interest and expansion in this industry.

Sadly an earthquake in 2005 made getting to and from various mines exceedingly difficult to borderline impossible. There is still limited production, though lack of infrastructure rebuilding makes for inconsistent production. Especially when coupled with the difficult terrain, with some deposits located above 15,000 feet.

Given the political and economical upheaval that frequently plagues the country, for the near future ruby mining in the country is limited.

Infrastructure

The biggest physical limitation of Pakistan’s mining is that the gems are collected from a primary deposit instead of a secondary deposit. The difference between these types is that primary gem deposits are embedded in the rocks they form in. Secondary gem deposits are already removed from the host rocks through weathering, and are loose.

By definition, primary deposits are much harder and costly to mine than secondary ones. The necessity of equipment to retrieve rubies forces miners to utilize older and less efficient methods such as using explosives on the bedrock. This even damages and lowers the value of the rubies upon retrieval, reducing the overall production.

The quality of the rubies could be on par with Myanmar (better known as Burma), but little investment in mining equipment and infrastructure (roads, reinforced mining shafts, employee training, etc) prevents developments on this front.

Primary Deposit


Marble rock with a ruby in it from Afghanistan

Secondary (Alluvial) Deposit


Sifting gem-bearing gravel in a river in Sri Lanka

Kashmir

An ancient country, parts of it are administered by Pakistan to-date and will be briefly reviewed here. It is worth noting that the country is home to a variety of rich gem deposits including the fabled Kashmir sapphires (mined in the north-eastern part of the country). The term fabled is used because this deposit was worked for as little as five years in the late 1800s. Despite this brief window, the sapphires were such high quality that the industry still places a high premium on even the much lower quality “New Kashmir” sapphires. Sapphires from this source command upwards of ten times the price of comparable quality from other sources such as Madagascar purely due to the name.

Hesitance on Investments

While Pakistan holds a great deal of potential as a world ruby source, there is little investment between the country itself and foreign investment. The country itself has very little money to invest, and foreign investors are apprehensive about the lack of regulations regarding mining in the area, including who is supposed to be paid for mining rights. Another major issue is the Line-of-Control between India and Kashmir, which constantly sees conflict between the two countries.