It was a group decision to walk up into the mountain to visit a Tanzanian sunstone and garnet mine. The mines were about an hour’s drive from Morogoro, heading up into the mountain. Once we parked the cars, we faced at least an hour’s walk uphill. The day was young, but it was already 30oC and the temperature was climbing fast.
It was a tough and energetic trek. We followed a narrow, rugged track, through a lush jungle of banana trees, at one point carefully stepping across the stones of a waterfall to reach the other side. I paused to take a breath and looked back across the valley of Morogoro. The view was breathtaking.
On the way up, we met a few miners coming down. They stopped to show us some stones they had just mined. It was rhodolite garnet, a variety of pyrope, a species in the garnet group. The name derives from the Greek “rhodon”, meaning “rose-like”.
When sunlight bounced off the transparent garnet, that unmistakable rhodolite colour was revealed. “For sale”, his eyes smiled at me, so I bought it from him for my gemstone/rock collection.
The mine was an underground cave. Once again, we wore hardhats and headlamps. The entrance was about 10 ft high and extended not too far into the mountain: about 75ft. It was very rocky underfoot and, once inside the cave, it quickly became very wet, muddy and slippery. It was easy to see the seam of garnets in the cave wall, where the miners were busy hammering with their pickaxes.
One miner generously handed me his pickaxe and let me have a go. I was reminded of our iolite mining experience: hammering away at the host rock, it seemed impossible to make even a dent in it. I handed the pickaxe back to the miner, who successfully extracted the garnet and its host rock from the wall then gave it to me.
Here are some photos from our garnet mine experience:
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Kim Rix GG GIA
Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence.