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Control of this critical product means dominance over the world's economy. Under a veil of secrecy, a cabal Lily and Me in Haut de Cagnes. A thirteen-year-old girl and her alcoholic mother Lily travel to Europe and settle do in A thirteen-year-old girl and her alcoholic mother Lily travel to Europe and settle do in a medieval village, Haut de Cagnes, in the southern part of France, a village occupied by expatriates, artists and an international set of lesbians. Foreigners were also reportedly harassed by local immigration officials, not to mention the security concerns in Tunduru's remote areas.

Foreign buyers from Sri Lanka and Thailand set up in Tunduru town top , while Tanzanian brokers work the bush in places like Majimaji below. Click on the photos for larger images. In , following the discovery of sapphire at Ilakaka in Madagascar, nearly all the buyers deserted Tunduru and its difficulties; within a few months, Tunduru's miners and brokers were left without a market for their gems. Thus miners abandoned Tunduru, returning to their farms or migrating to other mining areas like Ruangwa, where tsavorite had been found.

Map of the Tunduru region, showing the major mining districts. Click on the map for a larger image. As of , gem mining was found in a wide area around Tunduru from the Selous Game reserve in the north, to the Ruvuma river in the south which forms the natural border with Mozambique. All the mining areas we visited in were alluvial in nature. We never heard of gems being taken from primary deposits, but several people including Tunduru's mining officer believed that Tunduru's gems possibly originated in the Muhuwesi Hills to the north the southern part of the Selous Game Reserve which is the origin of Tunduru's gem-bearing rivers.

But this is just a theory. At the time of our visit in October, , Joseph had been living and mining at the Muhuwesi river for more than seven years. Mining in Tunduru is seasonal. When VP first visited the area in August , water levels in rivers were still high. People were found mining a few hundred meters from the Muhuwesi river, collecting gem gravels that were later taken to the river for washing. This type of mining is typical of the wet season mining. Later, in the October dry season, we witnessed mining mostly taking place in the dry beds of the river, as water levels had receded.

In Tunduru's wet season December to July , most people are involved in farming rice, corn or vegetables, with little mining taking place. Due to the rains, the work is dangerous, as the ground is not dry enough; pits and tunnels are subject to collapse and miners risk being buried alive. During the August—November dry season, the main activity in the Tunduru region is cashew nut farming and gem mining. As soon as the rains stop in August—September, the work force is busy in the cashew plantations.

Mining is at its highest point during the driest months of October and November. Miners work the dry riverbed at the Muhuwesi river in Tanzania's Tunduru district. River mining at Muhuwesi river can be difficult work; to reach gem-bearing gravels it is sometimes necessary to break large rocks and even then the mine production can be weak. Tunduru's gem trade is well-organized.

Foreign buyers concentrate in Tunduru itself and are not allowed to buy gems at the mines or at the local Tanzanian trading center at Majimaji. We found ten Sri Lankan, two Thai and three local Tanzanian gem buying offices open in downtown Tunduru. At Majimaji, a small trading village an hour's drive east of Tunduru, we were told that seventy brokers were operating.

Fifty-two were members of the Majimaji Mining Group the local Tanzanian gem trader association and twenty operated outside the association. Bush meat Tunduru sapphires along with a green garnet from the Ruvuma river that forms the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. While the sapphire color range is quite similar to that in Sri Lanka, the occurrence of green garnet distinguishes Tunduru gravels from those of Ceylon.

In addition, the Tunduru gravels are almost completely waterworn, whereas in Sri Lanka, euhedral crystals are commonplace. As Majimaji is located between the Muhuwesi and the Lumesule rivers, it is a convenient spot for miners to sell their production. Majimaji's gem traders will then sort the gems and create parcels.

We were told a broker could collect about grams of sapphire in 1—3 months. Parcels are then typically sold to the Tunduru foreign buyers or to visiting buyers like the famous Malapa Werner Spaltenstein. On October 14th, following the standard pow wow with the local mining officer, we left to explore the Muhuwesi River, which was the spot where mining first began in Several mining operations were found at spots No. As it was the dry season, mining was taking place in the river. First a small dam is commonly built to evacuate water from the river bed.

Then workers remove sand to reach the gem-bearing gravels. This operation can take a week. In order to avoid flooding in the pits, it is necessary to use pumps. The gravels collected are then washed to retrieve the gems. Most miners are poor farmers without the necessary tools and capital to work such river mines. Thus pumps, gas, food and tools are provided by a sponsor typically a Sri Lankan , not unlike what we encountered in Songea. Drink up Warne Chitty with a group of friendly natives along the Muhuwesi river in Tanzania's Tunduru district.

At the time of our field trip, he was studying for his FGA, but he and his father were able to join us in Tanzania. Hot stuff Richard Hughes examining a sapphire in Tanzania's Tunduru district. Miners fording the Ruvuma river that separates Tanzania near bank from Mozambique far bank , in Tanzania's Tunduru district. Gems are found on both sides of the river. A man returning from his field in the evening was killed by a leopard. Then a lion came, chased away the leopard and ate the victim. My friend C. T returning from the village of Magazini near the Ruvuma in March from Baldus, Setting out early, we took the tsetse-infested bush road to the Ruvuma River and the Mozambique border to witness the gem mining in that area.

Early 20th century photo of the Ruvuma 'Rovuma' river. Despite the passage of nearly a century, little has changed. Photo from Calvert ; from the William Larson Collection. After several hours we reached Mbuyuni village, reportedly the major gem trading center on the Mozambique border. At the river, there were several small trading huts, but few were occupied by buyers. Going a bit further, we found a small mining operation where six diggers were working. This was one of the most fascinating locales in the Tunduru District, where production was composed of the same mix of gemstones we saw the day before on the Muhuwesi river, except the stones were smaller and more tumbled, probably meaning we were farther from the original source.

But as Namibian diamond miners and Ken Kesey know all too well, further is not necessarily a bad thing. As you stray from the source, the quality of the recovered stone gets better, due to the natural weathering process that removes imperfections. The Insane Gem Posse in Majimaji, enjoying a few semi-cool ones after a hard day beating the bush for sapphires along Tunduru's Ruvuma River. On October 16 we left Tunduru early, right? Gems were reportedly first discovered there in by a local fisherman, about a year after the discoveries along the Muhuwesi River.

We were told that the "DSM box" on the Lumesule River was among the most active Tunduru gem mining localities from —98, with approximately 10, miners. At the time of our visit, however, this remote locale was past its boom, with only about huts and miners. The DSM Box was the the scene of some "difficulties. Sadly, the good feelings expressed by the village elders did not carry over to their offspring.

Upon returning to our Land Cruisers, we were greeted by a mob of angry people led by an agitated youngster, still demanding the skin tax. Seeing the village youth wielding rocks and sharpened sticks, we quickly understood that, while the wisdom of elders is of eternal value, there are times and places where one must give precedence to the new generation. Thus, in the spirit of supporting the local economy and community youth, we quickly coughed up the skin tax and beat a hasty retreat.

Following this adventure along with a bit of attempted highway extortion further on , we arrived at Kitowelo, famed as the home of Tunduru's biggest blue sapphires and alexandrites. Kitowelo's mines were reportedly discovered in From to the beginning of October , a large Thai operation with machines was present, but just days before our visit, Mr. Prayun the Thai miner who is also mining in Songea moved his equipment to his new project at Masuguro, Songea. The number of miners had thus dropped within days from to just After Kitowelo, we drove to Masasi, arriving late at night.

It had been a long day and a longer trip, leading RWH to declare: "Vince, when I get home from this 'vacation,' I'm gonna need a vacation. Following our visit to Mahenge, Songea and Tunduru, one of the junior members of our team, Warne Chitty, set to work on a thesis suggested by RWH, that of detailing the gemological features of the sapphires of Tunduru. In many respects, Tunduru was the proverbial blank spot on the gemological map, and Warne Chitty has now helped fill in some of the missing details.

His work is important and can be downloaded here:. Bad Boy No. He described how, as a boy of 14, his dad had been down the mining pit, his uncle had been down the pit, his brother had been down the pit, and of course he would go down the pit. When Tunduru's mines were first discovered, a rush started. Remarkably, miners did not even have the means to pay for bus transport from Songea to Tunduru. So they did what so many in the Third World do: they walked. There was no other choice—this was the land in which they lived. One day in Tanzania's Tunduru district, we were exploring along the Muhuwesi river.

A young boy of about twelve years watched with curiosity as we scraped and gathered tiny fragments of gems left behind by the miners. Soon he was helping us in our quest.

Reward Yourself

As we made ready to leave, he asked if he could hitch a ride to his village. We agreed and, on the way back, had a chance to get to know him better. He told us that every day he would walk more than ten kilometers down to the river in hopes of finding a few small gems. We asked why. This is the story he told:. When I was younger, my family had no money for food and so my father stole something in the market and was caught and imprisoned. To support our family, my mother became a prostitute and later contracted HIV. When my father was released, the disease passed to him.

Now both are dead. Today I live with my grandmother and go down to the river every day. The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit. Sadly, such a story is all too common in many developing nations. This is the land in which they live. Gem mining provides them a shot at something better.

It's a distant shot—perhaps less than one in a million—but a shot nonetheless. For those who have rolled snake eyes all their lives, even a lottery ticket looks good. It doesn't mean they have bad math skills, it simply means it's the best game in town—in their town. This is not a job. This is work. This is the life they live. When one pushes niceties and manners aside, for many on this planet, life is survival. Not a reality TV show, but the real world of waking up each day and wondering where they will get the means to reach the next dawn.

This is life broken down into its most basic form. A handful of hope in Tanzania's Tunduru district. Walk on, talk on, baby tell no lies. Don't you be caught with a tear in your eye. What is work? Years ago, one of the authors had a conversation with a lady about that. Once married, she and her young child had been abandoned. How did she feel? She had absolutely no shame. So powerful. She discarded petty shame and sorrow, but kept hope. In doing so, she slipped karma's leash. Is it karma for an infant to begin life with a death sentence, for a father to be so poor he must rob?

Is it karma for a mother to sell what she can so her family survives? Truly, what is karma? Some have free will, but for those with just a roulette-wheel-chance, karma is abstract. Digging holes in the ground? This is possible today. This is real. Strike it rich.


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We know of a land where that happened. A place filled with every societal ill, but still full of people ready to work and full of hope. Step forward a century and a half and those peoples' hopes have been vindicated. That once-poor place is now the world's eighth largest economy. You might have heard of it. So many miners are poor, but despite their poverty, they are proud of what they do. While driven by luck, they understand the odds. Despite the difficulties, as they toil underground, they maintain hope there will always be a light shining above.

Step back—away from the road— beyond the map. As you do so, you'll notice something. Many in this world have money, but are still miserable. And yet others— possessing so little —confound poverty's sadness with their happiness. Hope separates poverty from misery. Hope slips karma's leash. This is why the young boy went down to the river every day.

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Gemstone - Wikipedia

In the course of our travels downtown we discovered many gems. But this lesson was genuine treasure—something just beyond priceless. River of dreams A young boy along the Muhuwesi River with a handful of gems. I don't like work — no man does, but I like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself. The above is about work—what we do in that space between birth and death. Each of us who enters life walks the same tightrope. Sadly, some slip sooner than others. Two years after our Tunduru adventure, our guide, companion and friend, Abdul Amsallem, whose knowledge of Tanzania's gem mines was second-to-none, disappeared on a gem-scouting trip in Mozambique.

He has not been heard from since. Abdul, we hope you are still out there somewhere, going down holes, hunting gems, still searching and still dreaming…. The East African bush is home to a number of lovely beasts, including the tsetse fly, the safari ant, and larger pests such as the black mamba. We were to have brushes with all. Tsetse are large biting flies from Africa which live by feeding on the blood of vertebrate animals. They are infamous as carriers of the African trypanosomiases, deadly diseases that include sleeping sickness in people and nagana in cattle.

We sent a number of them into the hereafter along the Ruvuma river.


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  7. Kill them all; god will know his own. Tsetse flies collected in Tanzania's Tunduru district. Another fine piece of pestilence is the safari ant, which RWH met up with while stopping for a picture at Ipanko, in the Mahenge region. Stepping back into the jeep, the human occupants were greeted by the sight of RWH launching skyward like a Scud missile as a number of smaller guests made their presence felt.

    How Rare Is That Gem?

    The soldier type of this ant features oversized jaws of such strength that the Masai use them as emergency bush sutures, allowing the ants to bite both sides of the wound and then breaking off the body to seal it shut. The safari ant Dorylus is a particularly pernicious pest. This example is making a bee-line for RWH's gonads. Fortunately our encounter with the deadly black mamba followed its expiry date, having minutes before been walloped to death by a villager's stick.

    Which was a good thing, for a single bite from this serpent contains enough venom to kill scores of adults. According to the Wikipedia :. Black mambas are among the ten most venomous snakes in the world. Black mamba venom can kill a human in 20 minutes… The initial symptom of the bite is local pain in the bite area, although not as severe as snakes with hemotoxins. The victim then experiences a tingling sensation in the extremities, drooping eyelids eyelid ptosis , tunnel vision, sweating, excessive salivation, and lack of muscle control specifically the mouth and tongue.

    If the victim does not receive medical attention, symptoms rapidly progress to nausea, shortness of breath, confusion, and paralysis. Eventually, the victim experiences convulsions, respiratory failure, and coma, and dies due to suffocation resulting from paralysis of the muscles used for breathing. A black mamba in Tanzania's Tunduru district, just past its expiry date. But of all the varmints of East Africa, none takes a greater toll on the human population than the female Anopheles mosquito, which carries deadly malaria. Each year, more than million people are infected, with more than a million deaths per annum.

    While medicines are available to treat the disease, for so many of the poor, the best protection is simple: mosquito nets. An organization has been set up to help deliver this life-saving protection. A few years back, we took the family to Tanzania, which is ravaged by malaria now. We visited a school and played soccer with the kids. Must've been 50 on each team, running and laughing.

    A taped-up wad of newspapers was the ball and two rocks were the goal. Most fun I ever had getting whupped. When we got home, we sent some balls and nets. I kick myself now for that. How many of those kids are dead because we sent the wrong nets? Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated , May 1, Click on the banner below to help. This says it all, doesn't it? A sapphire miner along the Muhuwesi river in Tanzania's Tunduru district. We extend gracious thanks to Mark and Eric Saul of Swala Gem Traders , who did everything in their power to make our journey a successful one.

    We extend gracious thanks to our drivers, Musa top and Abel bottom , who kept us on the proper path and made sure we did not get into more trouble than we deserved. We extend gracious thanks to Kennedy and Susie Kamwathi center and right of Kennedy's Gems in Nairobi for all their help with our journey. Photo: Montogmery Chitty. His introduction to the insane gem posse was via cryptic screed to RWH on a sheet of old Rangoon Strand Hotel stationery.

    A torn fragment of a kyat Burmese banknote, with a brief message stating that someone would soon present the missing half sealed the deal. Monty provided adult supervision, good humor and a welcome shoulder to cry upon when RWH learned his house might be burning down. Contact him at elcapitan cubanrum. Hip flask and snake venom required.

    Warne Chitty right began his gemological studies with a trip to Colombia's emerald mines with Ron Ringsrud. Warne now sports a G. His dream job is guiding Guji through Aspen's nightlife scene.

    SRI LANKA - FIRE and SAPPHIRES

    Contact him at warne aspenpimped. Prophylactics required. This article is based on Vince Pardieu's field report , following an October visit to Kenya and Tanzania. Views expressed on this website are the authors' opinions alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizations who employ them. Those organizations take no responsibility and assume no liability for content on this website, nor are they liable for mistakes or omissions. Our guide and friend, Abdul Amsallem. Richard W. A committed conspiracy factualist, Richard believes that life is a plot, designed to trick us into believing we are not already dead.

    If you happen to know "they" or understand what "it" might be, contact Richard at dick youreallyareadick. Anonymous remailer and tin-foil hat required. Vincent Pardieu, a self-confessed "travel-addicted gemologist," lives life for the sole reason that, somewhere, someplace, there still exists a hole in the ground he has yet to put his head into.

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    His personal writings and research can be found at www. We are still looking for a twelve-step program for him. Reader suggestions should be submitted to vince youdirtydirtyboy. Soap required.