Somaliland appears to be the new potential gemstone-bearing region

HARGEISA (Somalilandpress) — Recent geological surveys indicate that Somaliland has abundant deposits of gemstones, from emerald to aquamarine, ruby and sapphire as well as vast amounts of garnet, quartz and opal as well as lesser-known minerals such as titanite and vesuvianite.

In addition to pegmatite, which are the host rocks of emerald and other kinds of beryl such as aquamarine, Somaliland has metamorphic rocks that hold nodules of ruby and sapphire.

There is little understanding of its mineral deposits but villagers in Somaliland use primitive tools to dig out a range of gemstones that they offer for sale to dealers locally. When aid officials at the European Community (EC) office in the country’s capital, Hargeisa, first saw the gemstones, they believed they had been stolen from graves. To determine whether these stones came out of the ground or stolen from graves, EC invited a consultant geologist and gemmologist from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr Judith Kinnaird, to investigate.

Dr Kinnaird visited the country twice in the past two years. In addition to identifying gem minerals in the country, she helps local miners distinguish among similar coloured minerals and is working with Progressive Interventions supported by EC funding to help set up a gemmological association and marketing channels for Somaliland’s mineral resources.
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The following report was compiled by Jewellery News Asia’s contributing editor, Jennifer Henricus from a presentation made by Dr Kinnaird at the annual conference of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain in London in late 2000 and from an interview with Dr Kinnaird.

Somaliland is part of the Mozambique Belt (MB) and prior to the continental drift 900 million years ago, was in the same area as Madagascar, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and India, Dr Judith Kinnaird said.

Somaliland has the similar type of gem minerals as these other well-known gem-bearing countries but gem deposits have only recently been discovered. Recovery of gemstones, carried out in a primitive and haphazard manner, has been done only since 1988, Dr Kinnaird said. The gem-producing belt is a fairly narrow strip located in a zone of rocks roughly parallel to the Gulf of Aden and is between 30 and 80 kilometres wide, 200 to 300 kilometres long.

The country was a British protectorate from 1886 until it became independent in 1960 and five days later became part of Somalia, a former Italian colony. In 1982 civil war broke out and lasted for nine years, but the country is still trying to recover from the ravages of this war. “Access to gem deposits is difficult. The debris from the war remains: roads suffered extremely, bridges have been bombed out. Getting to many of the mineral locations involves a bone-shaking journey,” Dr Kinnaird said.

The terrain in Somaliland is varied including high mountains and beaches along the Gulf of Aden. Temperatures are sub-Saharan, up to 50 degrees Celsius in summer on the coast, she said.

Watch the video below, a rare Ruby (1.822 kg) is unearthed from Somaliland.

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One of the many Diamonds discovered in Somaliland.

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Somalilandpress, 27 March 2010

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