It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

Neil Armstrong

 

Gem-Ecology: To Conserve and Protect

At Sapphminco we make certain that all our sapphire is mined under strict environmental protection standards. We also ensure that all stakeholders in the process of bringing the sapphire to our customers act ethically and with regard to the health and safety of all staff.

Sapphminco is committed to sustainable development, working hard with our staff and the local communities to ensure the environment is protected. Our goal is the leave the land where we mine in equal or better shape than we found it.

At our Lao property, while mining takes place in the background, a farmer plants the first seeds of rice on his newly reclaimed land.

At our Lao property, while mining takes place in the background, a farmer plants the first seeds of rice on his newly reclaimed land. Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo: Richard W. Hughes

Mining: The foundation of modern society

Virtually any mining activity is disruptive to both the environment and local community and Sino RMC’s Lao and Australian mines are no exception. What is important is that disruptions are minimized and benefits maximized, allowing gains to transcend costs. This concept is key to mining anywhere in the world.

We take for granted the products that we use on a daily basis, but because they are so ubiquitous, we don’t really think about what goes into their manufacture. Let’s step back and ponder this for a moment.

Computers and cell phones require a variety of materials for their production, including silicon and copper for microcircuits, along with rare elements like gallium and tantalum. Indeed, virtually every electronic device that we rely on today is created from raw materials taken out of the ground via mining. Ditto the metals and plastics that surround us.

Clearly, modern society needs mining; from the Internet to the iPhone, none of this could exist without extracting raw materials from the earth. And yet, by its very nature, mining is a destructive process. Mining disturbs the land; it causes pollution.

Here is the paradox. We need mining, and yet mining has negative consequences. What to do? The answer is clear. Mining needs to be done in the most eco-friendly way. It’s that simple.

Gem-ecology: Balancing community & environmental needs

At both our Lao and Australian properties, farming is the economic mainstay of the local communities. In order for mining to be successful, the company must ensure that local farmers are properly compensated.

The focus is to find a fair system that provides an economic benefit to the communities that we work with. This includes not only monetary compensation and land restoration, but also employment and training opportunities. Our goal is to ensure that the environment is restored to its original state, with land users having profited in the process. This notion of balancing costs and benefits of gem mining has been termed “gem-ecology” by the University of Vermont’s Saleem H. Ali and Sally Dickinson DeLeon and we take the idea seriously.

The region surrounding our Lao mines is rich in both flora and fauna and we take great pains to make sure this is not harmed by our mining activities.

The region surrounding our Lao mines is rich in both flora and fauna and we take great pains to make sure this is not harmed by our mining activities. Click on the photo for a large image. Photo: Auslan Ishmael

Land compensation & restoration

Our mining concessions fall entirely within farmland, with no forest needing to be cleared. Local land users are rice farmers that rely on this crop not only for subsistence, but also for income generation. This has been the case for many generations. Our mining method is shallow open pit/trench mining, which means that during the extraction, farmers are economically disabled.

To remedy this we provide monetary compensation packages for land usage. These packages have been calculated in unison with the farmers and the local government. In doing so, we ensure that farmers’ needs are not just met, but exceeded.

Compensation is in no way complete without land restoration. Thus in addition to monetary compensation, we restore all mined areas to their original, arable state. This means that farmers can again raise crops or livestock once mining is completed. Furthermore, we carefully monitor the land for three years after restoration, to assist the farmers should any problems arise.

Hmong children in a village near our Lao mines. At our Lao mines, the vast majority of our employees come from the local communities.

Hmong children in a village near our Lao mines. At our Lao mines, the vast majority of our employees come from the local communities. Click on the photo for a large image. Photo: Auslan Ishmael

Training & employment

Training and employment are two of our success areas. At our Lao operation, 95% of our workers are from the local communities. From administration to exploration, mining, sorting and cutting, the skills gained often applicable to industries other than just mining.

A young lady learning gem cutting at our Lao workshop. Our operation provides both training and employment for dozens of local people.

A young lady learning gem cutting at our Lao workshop. Our operation provides both training and employment for dozens of local people. Click on the photo for a large image. Photo: Richard W. Hughes

Cultural awareness

Wherever gem miners go, they are guests who must respect the local culture. Towards this aim, our mine management makes a point to take part in festivals and support local customs. Gaining their resect only benefits our operation, putting it in harmony with the local community. In the end, the key to SinoRMC’s Lao operation is not based on charity, but engaging the local community in a respectful way and listening to their needs and concerns. In doing so, we ensure that each side benefits.

Just as we do in Laos, at our Australian operations it is also paramount that we engage farmers well before mining begins. This way we can plan the land resoration activies together and ensure that the land is resuable once we are gone.

Just as we do in Laos, at our Australian operations it is also paramount that we engage farmers well before mining begins. This way we can plan the land resoration activies together and ensure that the land is resuable once we are gone. The above picture shows our Australian washing plant at night.