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Ruby Mining in Burma

The recent unrest in Burma has again highlighted the problems in that country.  The gem trade has been implicated in this by financially supporting the military junta’s repressive regime leading to calls for boycotts on rubies in particular from Burma.

Of course, these things are never black and white.  Calls for a boycott on goods (including gems) from Burma may hurt those in power but inevitable hurt the people more where an already difficult life is made more difficult from loss of income and work. 

Newspaper articles are useful for raising awareness but to read an interesting discussion on the subject by those who have extensive knowledge of the gem trade in Burma, we recommend this Gemology Online thread.  It does bring a little balance back into the topic.

Richard Hughes and Brian Leber wrote an article which pre-dates the current crisis but is still extremely relevant – Banned! Burmese Gems in the Crossfire.

Of course, the long-term human rights abuses in Burma are condemned by concerned people everywhere.  While monks and protestors for democracy are being arrested or shot, other issues are of lower priority.  It should be mentioned though that serious environmental damage is being caused by uncontrolled mining and logging for timber.  A little difficult to bring this to the top of the priority list while people are suffering but those taking a long term view would appreciate that an environment damaged beyond repair will seriously affect the future of the Burmese people.

An article highlighting this issue can be read at the Birma News website – In Myanmar, Rivers, Forest Suffer.   I recommend this blog for those wishing to learn more about the struggle for democracy in Burma/Myanmar from those directly involved.

One thing from all the reading is while there is no easy answer to any of these problems, consistent consumer pressure will help to slowly clean up the gem trade.  Our aim is to see miners who operate responsibly be rewarded for their efforts by being able to compete on a more level footing with higher prices also assisting those miners struggling for survival in countries such as Burma.  Consumers who buy on price alone dont help anyone in the industry but just encourage the status quo.

Leah and Andrew Lane (www.aussiesapphire.com.au)