How the small town of Montepuez hit the geological jackpot
Southern Africa’s Shona people say the vivid red soil’s color is due to all the blood that’s been spilt fighting over the possession of these lands. In Montepuez, the land-use is still disputed. For close underneath the surface, lies a brilliant, scarlet rouge treasure — ruby.
Billions of years ago, geological processes bestowed the area with sizeable deposits of this precious, valuable red jewel.
The history of ruby mining in Montepuez started in secrecy. In 2007 ruby was discovered, and mining was started by small scale miners and co-operatives, who would discreetly toil and mine and smuggle their rubies north over the border into Tanzania. At that time in Tanzania, a relatively new ruby mine called Winza was running at full production, and numerous foreign buyers were in the country. The secret Mozambican ruby-production was quietly slipped into the marketplace as the new Tanzanian ruby in an attempt to keep the secrets of their treasure concealed.
Thousands of miles away in Chanthaburi, Thailand, the global processing-hub for the ruby industry, large quantities of these secretiverubies started to turn up in volume. Due to the characteristics of Montepuez ruby, experienced ruby-company owners and ruby-experts in Chanthaburi knew instantly that these new rubies were not from Winza, and were in fact from a new and unknown source.
The ruby syndicates were awakened, and like Sauron’s Tower, it’s penetrating gaze and networks of runners and buyers relentlessly searched up and down East Africa’s gem-laden Rift Valley countries for the exact location of this hitherto unknown source. Thai buyers in Tanzania were told to press the African gemstone brokers for the source.
But, all good secrets must come to an end. No doubt with the liberal amounts of money being made from this new ruby deposit, lips loosened, and the game was up — the international ruby buying community now knew this Eldorado of ruby was in Montepuez. And they moved in for the kill.
Fear & Loathing in Montepuez
Moving men and materials in, the Thais from Chanthaburi set up buying bases in the small town of Montepuez, previously a sleep little town in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. With years of experience of working with artisanal African miners, the Thai started by organizing the African labor. Bringing in experienced Tanzanian pit-bosses that they had long and close relationships with and explorers, the miners Miners were given shovels, picks, cigarettes, food, powdered drinks and more. The miners fanned out over the areas around Montepuez and mined for the Thais. Digging large pits, they toiled, with the Thai and their experienced Tanzanian Walking Boss coming though. Over time the mining evolved its organizational structure.
300 people. Newer maps.
Mozambique Ruby Prices per Carat
Comparatively speaking, the price of Mozambique ruby is relatively cheap. Although very difficult to compare with Burmese ruby due to the fundamental chemical differences that create a different visual and color based experience, if one had to make a price comparison, it would be fair to say in the current market (2018) an untreated mozambique stone based around the intense fluorescing red color of an unheated pigeon blood ruby, it would trade at any where from a third to half of an equivalent Burmese ruby.