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TOPIC: mines

food / travel

Inside The Search For Record-Breaking Sapphires In A Remote Indian Valley

A vast stretch of mountains in India's Padder Valley is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, which could change the fate of one of the poorest districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

GULABGARH — Mohammad Abbas recalls with excitement the old days when he joined the hunt in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district to search the world’s most precious sapphires.

Kishtwar’s sapphire mines are hidden in the inaccessible mountains towering at an altitude of nearly 16,000 feet, around Sumchan and Bilakoth areas of Padder Valley in Machail – which is one of the most remote regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Up there, the weather is harsh and very unpredictable,” Abbas, a farmer, said. “One moment the high altitude sun is peeling off your skin and the next you could get frostbite. Many labourers couldn’t stand those tough conditions and fled.”

Abbas, 56, added with a smile: “But those who stayed earned their reward, too.”

A vast stretch of mountains in Padder Valley nestled along Kishtwar district’s border with Ladakh is believed to house sapphire reserves worth $1.2 billion, according to one estimate. A 19.88-carat Kishtwar sapphire broke records in 2013 when it was sold for nearly $2.4 million.

In India, the price of sapphire with a velvety texture and true-blue peacock colour, which is found only in Kishtwar, can reach $6,000 per carat. The precious stone could change the socio-economic landscape of Kishtwar, which is one of the economically most underdeveloped districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

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"The Mine Of The Dead": Inside Egypt's Desert Gold War

There is a long history of mining in Egypt that goes back thousands of years, but has largely been dormant over the past century. But it's picking up now, with troubling ramifications.

ASWAN – Standing at any point in the deserts of Aswan and looking out across the vast expanse of sand that stretches out toward the horizon in all directions, the vastness, the seeming emptiness, it is hard to imagine that this is the staging ground of a slow brewing war.

But in the last few years, the Eastern Desert has become a warzone.

Warplanes conduct reconnaissance missions. There are ambushes along desert roads, raids, military trials, the deaths of security forces, men toting guns on social media to tout their strength.

But this isn’t a war of ideology or a political struggle over the fallout of revolution and counter-revolution. No. The frontier lands of Aswan are the site of a different conflict: a gold war.

“Gold is like fish, and the desert is like the sea,” says an informal miner in Aswan, describing their work to Mada Masr. And the fishermen are many, from smugglers and local tribesmen to groups of Egyptian laborers, migrants and miners.

Estimates put the reserves of the Sukari mine, one of the biggest mines in the Eastern Desert, at around six million ounces of gold alone. The price of a single ounce of gold in Egypt is now over $1,900.

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Inside Canada's Mining Boom — And What It Could Mean For China

Canada’s subsoil is among the world’s 10 richest in graphite, lithium and cobalt. Only China can say the same. A report from Quebec, home to North America’s biggest graphite mine project.

QUEBEC CITY Even in late spring, Quebec skies can be surprising. Once past the Saint-Michel-des-Saints sign, huge snowflakes begin to fall.

“We know how to entertain!” says Julie Paquet, Vice-President of Communications and ESG Strategy at Nouveau Monde Graphite. The mining company has set up shop in the heart of a rural village of 2,500 inhabitants, a hotspot for snowmobile enthusiasts.

The village is abuzz with activity, but this time it’s not because of tourists in search of northern adventure: it’s the mine that’s bringing the crowds. “We’re doing a lot of tours at the moment. There’s been a lot of interest in graphite in the last months,” says Julie Paquet.

The spherical graphite that the company is starting to produce is used in the anode of lithium-ion batteries, those put in electric vehicles. “We talk a lot about the cathode, with cobalt or nickel. But graphite makes up 95% of the anode. It’s essential,” adds Paquet.

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Ukraine Now Has More Landmines Than Any Other Nation — What Can Be Done?

Ukraine became the country with the most landmines in the world. Kyiv has limited resources, so NGOs are trying to help by training soldiers to identify and destroy the potentially deadly devices even while protecting themselves from new assaults from Russian forces.

VASYLENKOVE — Walking along a rough dirt road in this eastern Ukrainian town, Trevor Kirton slowly makes his way, metal detector in hand. "Watch where you step," warns the volunteer de-miner, a veteran of the British army.

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A hundred meters further on lie the pulverized remains of a Ukrainian truck, destroyed after driving over a Russian anti-tank mine. The occupants of the vehicle died on impact. All that remain are a shredded camouflage jacket and some scattered personal belongings on the side of the road. As Kirton crouches to examine a piece of shrapnel, an explosion is heard in the distance, raising a thick column of black smoke.

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Wisam Franjiyeh

A Syrian Father's Mission To Clear ISIS Mines Is Cut Short

Abu al Fadl devoted the final months of his life to clearing al-Bab of improvised explosives left behind by ISIS in everything from washing machines to cooking pots. The 60-year-old disabled several thousand mines before one took his life.

Ahmad Muhammad al-Na'sani was haunted by thoughts of his death long before he died.

As a volunteer land mine removal expert in Aleppo's countryside, he felt his life would end every time he discovered an explosive device. After destroying nearly 3,500 explosives, al-Na'sani, known as Abu al-Fadl, was killed on May 8 while taking apart a land mine left by the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

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Nicole Curby

At The Mercy Of Mercury, Indonesian Miners Risk It All

Small-scale miners on the island of Lombok and elsewhere in Indonesia are playing a dangerous game by using mercury, a toxic heavy metal, to extract gold.

SEKOTONG — Lombok's spectacular volcanic hills are lined with picturesque beaches, coconut palms, and bright green rice paddy fields. In a number of places, though, the Indonesian island's lush landscape is pockmarked by brown spots — clearings where people have razed the vegetation in search for gold.

There, in clouds of dust, small-scale miners scratch the earth for whatever little bit of wealth they can extract. In doing so, they put more than just the environment at risk: The miners also gamble with their lives.

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Sally Sara

Laos, A Risky Cleaning Job In The World's Most Bombed Country

A brave group of women are taking on the enormous task of finding and destroying millions of unexploded bombs in Laos, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world.

XIANGKHOUANG — The women from the bomb-clearing team use loud speakers to warn the locals when there is about to be an explosion.

These women are on the front line of a campaign to clear up to 80 million unexploded bombs in Laos. Their metal detectors make a buzzing sound each time they find something.

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Harold Thibault

China's Dying Miners Fight Against Time For Compensation

QUINGGOU — It was back in the mid-1990s, amid China’s major economic reforms. Liu Changxia and other men in the village of Qinggou felt it was “time to leave home” because the farm wasn‘t bringing in enough and their families needed to be provided for. The whole country was talking of nothing but economic growth. In the coal-rich rural province of Henan, in east central China, men old enough to work hardly had a choice. Options are limited for low-qualified workers. They had to go down in the mines, and it cost them their lungs.

In that village alone, 19 former miners are now suffering from silicosis. In Europe, this pulmonary infection brings to mind the ills of the industrial revolution, but in 21st century China, it is the primary work-related disease, with 10,592 cases diagnosed in 2012 alone.

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Harold Thibault

After Chasing Ghana's Gold Rush, Chinese Miners Chased Back Home

SHANGLIN - Zhen Minxin keeps repeating that he is “lucky.” On this warm morning of mid-June, his return back home is being celebrated, with the slices of watermelon laid out on the table and cigarette butts scattered on the floor as sure signs of the festivities.

Zhen's own cigarettes are Gold Seal, a brand unknown in China. They are in fact from Ghana, the country that he fled in a sudden rush just the day before, after just a year abroad, landing back to Tangma, his village in the middle of the green hills of southern China.

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Jean Nondo

Kids Are Dying In Congolese Gold Mines, And No One Is Held Accountable

Underage workers wind up digging for gold, and too often dying in the process. Family traditions are part of why no one is ever held responsible.

KAMITUGA - In this Congolese mining city, children are working illegally -- and dying as a result.

Over the past few months alone, at least ten youths were reported to have died, crushed by collapsing rocks or asphyxiated inside the mines of Kamituga, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Geoffroy Deffrennes

Rust-Belt Louvre - Famed Museum Opens Branch In Forsaken Mining Town

LENS - Matthieu Debas, the owner of the "Chez Cathy" bar, is peeling some potatoes for tonight's French fries. Across the street, he can see the faint lights of the construction site. On Rue Paul-Bert, cars are zigzagging around heavy equipment, lit up by the lights of the diggers.

As the inauguration date of the Louvre museum branch gets ever closer, the city of Lens is buzzing with activity. A group of workers enter the bar. "A bottle of lemonade for three!" jokes one of them. Deadpan, Mathieu Debas serves the drink… with three straws.

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