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Gem mining and ecology

Seems like this topic has illicited a lot of emotion. Its important
to p ut it in perspective.

I have visited over the past twenty years gem mining areas in Africa,
Sou th America, Australia, Burma and the U.S. Gemstones are rare.
Generally speaking they occur in relatively small pockets somtimes
scattered over broad areas. It is seldom economically feasible for
big companies to exp loit these deposits - so most gem mining is
carried out by small mom and pop operations. This is also why the
colored gem business is controlled by small independent operators.
Please take a look at my Gemkey magazin e article on gem mining in
Brazil, “Gariempiero Dreams” posted on my site :

Some damage is done but it is relatively minor and often mining is a
ques tion of economic survival for these independent miners. Ecology
and cons ervation are largely concerns of those of us who are not
fighting a day to day struggle against starvation. Our demands that
third world countri es clean up the enviorment, save the rainforest,
etc., are seen in these countries for what they are, the
paternalistic arrogance of the rich.

If you had been, for example, to Burma in recent years you would see
that demands to stop buying Burmese rubies if sucessful would simply
further penalize the poor workers of that unfortunate country. These
sort of cam paigns make us feel good but they do real damage to
regular folks in thes e countries.


All, I agree with Richard. Developed countries trying to control
environmental damage by boycott of goods does nothing to stop the
damage to the environment. In my opinion a much better way to
control environmental damage is through human rights. Rulers in
underdeveloped countries need to be encouraged to work towards better
treatment of their populations. As populations become educated and
better able to sustain their families they become more aware of
protecting their environment. This is basic human psychology. When
you are at the survival level the environment is of little to no

Gerry Galarneau

As we continue to pontificate our individual interpretations of what
is good for the environment and mankind it seems to me that we tend
to overlook the fact that ANY environment has a carrying capacity
that will eventually self destruct if it is overpopulated and / or
overexploited. It is a fact that some resources are non-renewable,
but it is also a fact that there is just so much to go around even
when resources are renewable. Arable land is fast being consumed and
depleted and fresh water is rapidly being overdrawn. Furthermore,
population density eventually reaches a point where crowding tends to
generate madness. The Japanese are amongst the most complacent people
in the world and yet, when they compete to get on a commuter train
they undergoe a psychological metamorphosis. Gridlock on the Los
Angeles freeways more and more frequently result in episodes of road
rage.Urbanization in China has resulted in the creation of a large
indigent class living in poverty.

The notion that uncontrolled growth is inevitable is pure folly.
There are numerous European economies that have acheived neutral
growth without harm and are now enjoying economic prosperity without
further crowding. The never-ending-growth notion is akin to nuclear
fission…if the reactiion is not controlled it eventually explodes
and destroys everything nearby. Historically, all civilizations have
self destructed and very often it was because they simply exhausted
their resources and carrying capacity of the infra-structure. In
other cases they overextended their boundaries and resorted to
conquest as a way to expand their prosperity.

I prefer to live in a small town. There is a sense of place and
identity and a feeling that everyone is dedicated to the well being
of the community. Invariably the Chambers of Commerce in these small
towns are controlled by growth forces. The people who want the growth
are the people who benefit economically therefrom and they are always
the realtors and the developers. Because these selfish interests
control the chambers they smooz everybody with the old growth litany
saying that everybody will benefit because of expanded business and
employment. And, they are quite right…the economy does expand and
lots of very low paying jobs are brought into the community, high
paying jobs are filled by people outside the community, big profits
are made by large corporations who take those profits out of the
community and the little business people who were prosperous are
forced to close their doors. Ultimately the small town is absorbed by
larger towns and the whole mess becomes another Los Angeles urban
sprawl disaster replete with gridlock, occaisional riots, corrupt
police, road rage, massive pollution, slum hells and borderline

As for the depredations of gemstone mining, I would agree that most
operations are small and realatively innocuous. Nonetheless, when the
areal extent of the mineralization is great, even the small time
operators wreak havoc simply because there are multitudinous
contiguous clams which eventually meld together and create a huge
scar on the earth. Then the secondary efffects set in and the
surrounding areas become impacted by vegetation denudation,
desertification and/or erosion, loss of top-soil and destruction of
animal habitat. The original Diamond mines in Africa started with
just such a scenario and, of course, that huge Gold mine in the
Amazon which was featured in a National Geographic story, was an
excellent example of just such a phenomenon. Indeed, the secondary
effects of metal and gemstone mining are often the most lethal.
Hundreds of miles of rivers below alluvial gold deposits have been
long-term contaminated by Mercury poisoning and this kind of
contamination is the direct result of small time operators and their
collective impact.

Greed is what does man in…once we get on that consumer
treadmill we develop that notion that more is always better and we
dedicate ourselves to unhappiness through never being satisfied. Ask
a wealthy man " How much money is enough ? and he will answer, "Just
a little bit more ! " ( Merde, alors ! ) Ron at Mills Gem, Los
Osos, CA.

how this whole program works but I must say your letter was a
complete waste of my time. I’m going to turn off this computer and
sit down at my bench where I hope to create many new baubles to
satisfy the masses.

John Sholl
J. F. Sholl Fine Jewelry
2646 W. Main St.
Littleton, CO. 80120