Gemfields has unveiled a new ruby sort house on one of the most significant recently discovered ruby deposits in the world, at Montepuez Ruby Mine in Mozambique.
The first of its kind in the coloured gemstone industry, it will be on a par with the best diamond facilities in the world. This state-of-the-art facility, costing $15m, will allow Montepuez Ruby Mine (MRM) to consistently deliver a greater volume and spectrum of responsibly sourced rubies to the global market.
The facility itself will raise production levels significantly and works by using the natural properties of rubies as a means of automated sorting. The process starts with washing of the raw material, before passing it under ultra-violet (UV) light. Rubies naturally fluoresce under UV light, meaning optical sorters can detect the fluorescence and employ blasts of air to direct individual rubies to separate channels for further sorting and grading.
Sean Gilbertson, CEO, Gemfields commented: “We are proud of our pioneering approach and leadership position within the sector and continually work to improve the provision of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones. We are delighted to inaugurate this state-of-the-art, industry-leading ruby sort house today and will continue to strive to deliver best-in-class operations and promote transparency, trust and sustainable mining practices.”
The use of programmable logic controllers and data software under the UV light to conduct the sorting process is faster, more reliable and more efficient than the human eye. It also allows the identification of a finer material component than before. A greater number of washing plants – the equivalent of washing 10,000 tonnes of ore per day – combined with UV optical sorting account for how throughput will increase exponentially, translating into significantly higher production figures.
However, the introduction of automation will not mean a reduction in workforce, in fact quite the opposite. Firstly, the greater throughput of the sort house means an expansion of the current active mining area, which will require an increase in workforce. Secondly, the manual part of the sorting process – categorisation and grading the rubies themselves – will require a greater volume of highly skilled employees. Rather than import this expertise, MRM is creating the first group of Mozambican gemmologists specialised in the selection and classification of rubies, which marks a substantial step for the ruby industry.
And finally, the installation of the technology itself has equipped the Mozambican workforce with the technical ability to understand, operate and manage facilities of this nature anywhere in the world, enabling their place as a specialised and competitive labour force in the international employment market.
Mervyn Dettmer, Head of Sort House, commented: "We believe that this new machinery will enrich and expand the knowledge of our employees, creating development opportunities and specialisation in the field of gemmology within the local workforce."