Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Valley of Rubies - Mogok, Myanmar

Mogok is a city in the Mandalay Region of Burma (Myanmar), located 200 km north of Mandalay.

Mogok and other villages nearby have been famous since ancient times for its gemstones, especially ruby and sapphire. 90% of the world's rubies come from Myanmar. The red stones from there are prized for their purity and hue. The "Valley of Rubies" is noted for its rare pigeon's blood rubies and blue sapphires.
References to rubies and Burma have been found dating to the sixth century, during the Shan Dynasty. The ruby mines in Mogok were taken over from the Shan by the king of Burma in 1597.

In the 1870s, during the reign of King Mindon (1853-1878) the French and the English were building colonial empires in Asia. The British learned of the French interest in Mogok and Upper Burma, and feared that the French would take over the region and control access to China. Backed by a consortium of London-based gem merchants, they planned an invasion of Burma with one of its main objectives being control of Mogok and its ruby mines.
In 1886, the British succeeded in taking over Upper Burma. By 1889, they had formed Burma Ruby Mines Ltd. They introduced water cannons, washing plants, and other mechanized mining methods. The company promoted Burmese rubies in Europe and around the world.

Operational problems and falling prices due to the introduction of synthetic ruby caused the company to abandon the mines in 1931.
Burma became an independent nation in 1948. Following a coup in 1962, a military dictatorship took over until 2011.

Burma's ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world's longest-running unresolved civil wars. The military junta was dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. Although the military retains influence through the constitution that was ratified in 2008, it has relinquished control of the government.
The geological environment includes impressive marble pinnacles (karsts) that are blackened from weathering. These formations are visible throughout the stone tract. One of the largest of these outcroppings is the one that the temple Kyauk Pyat sits upon.
The karsts result from the weathering of the marble. This weathering process also plays a part in mining at Mogok. Marble is an intricate component of ruby and spinel formation.

The host rock is weathered and transported along with the gems. The gems are then concentrated in gravels.
In March 2012, a draft foreign investment law emerged, the first in twenty five years. Foreigners will no longer require a local partner to start a business in the country, and will be able to legally lease, but not own property.

In 2012, the Asian Development Bank formally began to finance infrastructure and development projects in the country. The United States, Japan and the European Union countries have also begun to reduce economic sanctions to allow foreign direct investment.