Updated: 5 hours ago
On day 10 of our gemstone tour of Tanzania, we visited a ruby-zoisite mine. It was a good two-hour drive, heading west out of Arusha along the main road, followed by an hour driving off the beaten track to Longido town. The mining site was just beyond that.
As we were arriving, it was a phenomenal sight: there was a huge area with tens of piles of white stones, clearly with people sitting around the piles sorting them. But where we were going was through a huge iron gate. Immediately as I stepped out of the car, there were visible signs of ruby-zoisite on the ground. It was beautiful; large red corundum crystals in a bright green zoisite matrix. The black areas are amphibole. The temptation was to pick up as much as possible, until deliberating the issue of how to export it home.
It was an underground mine, done by pickaxe and hand. Wearing hardhats, we were given a choice: walk down now or wait 45 minutes for the cargo cart to make its way back up and jump in, to go down later. Everyone started descending by foot. I hesitated, as it looked horrendously steep, but 15 minutes later I mustered up the courage to follow on foot, together with another colleague.
Much to our relief, at 80 meters down, we jumped into a cart which although it was on a mechanised pulley, still required two miners to manually push and pull. It took to us the bottom at around 210 meters. From there, we were escorted around the tunnels, which extended for about 500 meters. It was very well lit, and surprisingly cool and airy. The miners were thrilled to be asked for a photo and we thanked them for the tour.
Fortunately, we were given another ride in the cargo cart to go back up, but the physical exertion of getting down left me aching for three days.
With thanks to the mine owner and his wife for hosting us. Here are a few photos to give you a glimpse of our experience exploring the ruby-zoisite mine:
Kim Rix GG GIA
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