Gem mining in Thailand is almost finished.
The gem mines are almost worked out and few are still operating. This is
what I read over again on the Internet. The gemstone experts must be
right or are they?
Is this just a
ploy to drive up the prices. Or is someone somewhere sitting on a
fortune in rubies and sapphires. Exquisite gems are traded in Bangkok
daily for four and five figure sums. Maybe it is time to get out the
pick and shovel and head out prospecting.
The districts of Bo Rai and Khao Saming have been developed as the
region's major gem mining areas. Especially Bo Rai is noted for being
the site of the world-famous "Tab Tim Siam" or King Ruby. The gem market
of Bo Rai at Hua Tung Market takes place between 7:00-10:00 A.M. and
Khlong Yo Market from 1:00-3:00 P.M. Other markets such as Nong Bon
Intersection , Ban Sa Yai Market Ban Nonsi and Ban Ta Ngam are open all
Thailand (Kanchanaburi and Chanthaburi), Burma (Mogok and Namya), Laos (Huay
Xai), and Cambodia (Pailin).
Kanchanaburi: The Bo Ploy area 30km north of this very touristy
city, known for its bridge over the river Kwai, where the company SAP is
still mining a large domain and is converting the areas mined already
into a golf course and lake resort. Bo Ploy is now just a shadow of was
it was in the past. The area was discovered in 1918, and a small gem
rush occurred, but soon the deposit was thought to be depleted. Its
rediscovery in 1987 turned the area into a major mining center. After
few years of strong activity, the production has decreased. Currently
the loss of mining activity has made difficult to find a room to sleep
or even a place to eat in Bo Ploy, which is difficult to imagine in
Thailand . Besides blue sapphire, large quantities of black spinel known
locally as “nin” are mined and most of the time sold on many Thai
markets as “onyx”.
Chanthaburi: This area is probably the oldest Thai mining area.
Discovered in the middle of the 19th century, it had a strong ruby
mining activity after the military took power in Burma in 1962, cutting
the supply for Burmese rubies and sapphires. Thai rubies mines near Bo
Rai were then the major world source of rubies for nearly 30 years until
the arrival of Mong Hsu rubies in the market in early 1990s which was a
fatal blow for most ruby mining in Thailand and East Africa. In the Ban
Kha Cha area southwest of the city, some mining is visible both small
scale and larger scale. Most of the production there is black star
sapphire along with some less frequent blue, green, and yellow gems. On
the east of Chanthaburi, around Bo Rai, the large mechanized ruby mines
visible during the 1970's and 1980's are now only memories. Several
small scale mining operations and some individual river mines are still
present in some parts of this area.
Other Thai sapphire mining areas: On my last visit to the SAP mine in
Kanchanaburi a few months ago, the mine manager informed me that they
were currently opening a second sapphire mining operation in north
Thailand near Phrae which was known to produce small quantities of
sapphire. I did not visit the area yet, but will sometime soon. I was
also told of some small sapphire mining in other parts of Thailand.
These being in the eastern part of the country close to the
Cambodian-Laotian border but I have not been to these areas.
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