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Minerals in Afghanistan : gemstones of Afghanistan

By Robert McIntosh and Antony John Benham


Afghanistan and gemstones have been inextricably linked for\ud 6500 years and the country remains rich in precious and semiprecious\ud gemstone deposits (Figure 1). Lapis lazuli, mined in the\ud Hindu Kush since the Neolithic Period, was transported along\ud the ancient trade routes to Mesopotamia, Ur, Egypt and India.\ud Precious gems including emeralds, ruby and sapphires (Figure 2)\ud are mined in Afghanistan, and semi-precious lapis lazuli,\ud tourmaline, aquamarine, kunzite, topaz, garnets, fluorite and\ud varieties of quartz are also worked. Afghanistan is also a source of\ud good quality mineral specimens sought by collectors.\ud Gemstone mining in Afghanistan is typically an artisanal\ud activity, carried out by people living in villages surrounding\ud the mines. Tunnels are excavated and gems are extracted by\ud hand using drills, dynamite and often high explosives recycled\ud from ordnance. These techniques lead to much waste and\ud damage to gems, and result in low yield.\ud Most of the gemstones mined in Afghanistan leave the country\ud illicitly, 90–95 % of them going to Peshawar in Pakistan where\ud they are sorted for quality

Topics: Earth Sciences
Publisher: Afghanistan Geological Survey
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:

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