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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk

Mozambique Tourmaline Gemstones

The history of tourmaline in Mozambique is intertwined with the fortune of a man by the name of Moussa Konate. Originally from Guinea in Northwest Africa, Moussa Konate was a gemstone trader who had tried many of the African markets with limited success. That story changed when in 1987, he switched from buying rough stones in Madagascar and focused his efforts on the other side of the Mozambique Channel.

Natural Tourmaline from Mozambique
Natural Tourmaline from Mozambique

Moussa was trading in aquamarine rough, which was mined in the province of Zambezia in Central Mozambique, when he decided to take a risk and buy up some of the mixed tourmaline that was being traded locally. He was surprised to find that a small percentage of the stone glowed in a way which would indicate that it was copper bearing tourmaline, similar to Brazilian Paraiba.

Natural Mozambique Tourmaline
Natural Mozambique Tourmaline

The origin of the tourmaline rough was an alluvial deposit in the Shalawa area of Nampula Province where tourmaline was originally discovered in around 2001 by local farmers. When in 2003 Moussa took seven kilos to the US and quickly and easily sold the lot, he began to further investigate the nature of the tourmaline from the region.

The mining operations at the time were limited to 300 local people digging tourmaline out of crude 2 meter-deep pits on about one acre of land. Realizing the huge potential of the stone, Moussa struck his own claim on an adjacent 300 hectares, and applied for the first mining and exploration license in the area. With some others, Moussa created Mozambique Gems and throughout 2004 and 2005 began production of tourmaline, a small percentage of which contained Paraiba colors.

Copper Bearing Mozambique Tourmaline
Mozambique Tourmaline

As the tourmaline gems entered the market, word quickly spread, leading to a surge in activity around Moussa's tourmaline discovery and the subsequent establishment of a bustling town. In a matter of months, the number of miners swelled from a few hundred to over 3,000, with five new claims spanning over 1,000 hectares each emerging around the initial site. However, those who arrived early reaped the rewards - out of the initial several hundred kilos of tourmaline rough extracted from the area, only around ten percent exhibited the coveted neon Paraiba glow, with the remaining ninety percent originating from within the original 300-hectare plot.

Natural Mozambique Tourmaline
Natural Tourmaline from Mozambique

Unfortunately, the infrastructure of the area was unable to cope with the huge influx of laborers, and in 2006 disease became rampant in the mining camps. This led Moussa and his group at Mozambique Gems to suspend operations in order to try to take a more measured approach to avoid future epidemics. Instead, they began to develop the local area and community by building medical facilities and extending an electricity supply to neighboring areas, including schools.

They also built a washing plant to mechanically extract the tourmaline from the ground before recommencing operations, which offers safe employment conditions for local miners and hopefully more Paraiba tourmaline for the world market.

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