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Exploring the Depths of Tanzania's Ruby-Zoisite Mine

Updated: Jan 15

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:

Fragments of ruby-zoisite | Gemstone Detective
Lying on the ground absolutely everywhere, fragments of ruby-zoisite - at the mine

a miner with his wheelbarrow | Gemstone Detective
Inside the ruby-zoisite mine, a miner with his cargo cart, usually full of gem-gravels

Ruby-zoisite | Gemstone Detective
A superior specimen of ruby-zoisite from the mine

Miner pushing wheelbarrow | Gemstone Detective
A glimpse inside the mine - the miner is pushing the cargo cart which is also on a pully

Gemstone Detective inside the wheelbarrow | Gemstone Detective
We gladly jumped into the cargo cart to be taken back out of the mine

Inside the ruby-zoisite mine | Gemstone Detective
210 meters to the bottom then we walked around of the ruby-zoisite mine.

Group photo of ruby-zoisite miners | Gemstone Detective
I met the miners who were very happy to pose for a group photo

Being transported out of the mine | Gemstone Detective
Coming back out of the ruby-zoisite mine

Masai women | Gemstone Detective
After that amazing experience, I had a good opportunity to chat with the Masai women at the mine

Tanzania Discovery Gemstone Tour 2024 | Gemstone Detective
Tanzania Discovery Gemstone Tour 2024

Kim Rix GG GIA

Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence.

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