Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and action. As of yesterday over 9,000 blogs registered with a total readership of over 10 million!

This year's theme is POVERTY. I will be contributing a microloan to a deserving artisan through either Kiva or Build a Nest. (see past post) Both organisations provide small loans to struggling entrepreneurs in the developing world to help them start their small businesses and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

When we think of mining, we think of deep pits but gem mining is also carried out in rivers. The video here shows gem miners in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka - the legendary Island of Gems. These men don't look like miners at all but more like fishermen. They use long poles to dredge for gemstones like sapphires and rubies which sink. The gemstones are heavier than glass and sand. Their poles have hooks on them which they use to drag along the gem laden soil at the bottom of the river to locate good places to sample. They later sieve the soil from these likely spots for gemstones.

Click here for video link.

The river in which the men are dragging is probably the Kaluganga or "Sinbad's River". The gemstones erode from mineral rich rocks and eventually get washed down the rivers. River miners are generally much poorer than the pit miners. The pickings are sparse. The work is long, tedious and gruelling and the miners have many mouths to feed. When they can't find any gemstones, they pick fruit such as jackfruit from trees to survive on.

Finding the right spot in the river is the tricky bit as strong currents sweep away even the heaviest gems and slow waters means sifting through a lot of unwanted debris. They also sometimes build dams to help them trap and sort the gemstones before they do the sieving.

The men chew betel nut which stains their mouths red. They depend on the stimulant found in the betel nuts to help them cope being in cold running water for several hours each day. They also bear many scars from cuts - as one miner says, "Sometimes the sapphires are like knives - they cut everything."

It all seems so unfair that some of the people who actually find precious gemstones for jewelry bought by wealthy people could be so very poor.

Jewels : A Secret History by Victoria Finlay (2005). Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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