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Surviving the Sun: Overcoming the Challenges of Tanzania's Sunstone Mining

After trekking up the mountain to visit the rhodolite garnet mine, the sunstone mine was just half an hour’s walk away in a westerly direction. It was now virtually the hottest part of the day.

To get to the mine, we had to climb 20ft up and over the tailings of the host rock, granite. It was an enormous pile of rubble!

The trek to the sunstone mine in Tanzania

Once at the top, the sunstone mine was in front and below us. It was an open-pit mine. The tailings came from a granite wall, which was being hacked out and removed. Two miners worked below as a team: one holding a chisel, whilst the other took swings at the chisel with a hammer. His strength was super-human and I watched as he took swing after swing, only a few seconds apart.

I was invited down to have a go, but the descent looked so steep and treacherous that my initial response was ‘no thanks’. But how else was I going to get a closer look? After fifteen minutes of watching the miners working tirelessly, I plucked up the courage to venture down.

I carefully walked over a log which was balanced over a pool of water. The club hammer was put in my hands and I slowly started to hit a chisel wedged into the wall, as hard as I could. To be honest, I was too worried about hitting the miner’s hand! As heavy as the club hammer was, I tried to get into a rhythm of hitting the chisel. Once again, my efforts made little impression and I handed the hammer back to the miner. At least I had had a go and thankfully the miner’s hand was unharmed.

Moments later, a huge chunk of the granite wall I had just been working on came away and the miner put it into my hands. It must have weighed about 20 kilos! As I held the rock facing the sun, it gave a beautiful demonstration of sunstone’s adventurescence: bright metallic glittery flashes when viewed at certain angles.

I handed my mobile phone to Nando (a member of our small tour group), and here are a few zoomed-in photos he took from the top of the mine, looking down:

My experience of mining for sunstone in Tanzania

Mining for sunstone | Gemstone Detective

A huge and heavy sunstone specimen | Gemstone Detective

Fancy coming off the beaten track with us? Check out our Gemstone Discovery of Tanzania Tour 2024. We'll be heading south to Mahenge. Get in touch to book!

Join our Gemstone Discovery Tour Tanzania 2024

Kim Rix GG GIA

Gemstone Detective

Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence

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