Gemfields has opened a new, industry-leading, ruby sort house on one of the most significant recently discovered ruby deposits in the world – 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, the result of an investment of $15million (£11.5m), will allow the 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. It 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.
The use of programmable logic controllers and data software under the UV light to conduct this 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.
Ruby Grading Supervisor, Kaung San, remarks: “Previously the sorting of rubies was largely manual, but it is very exciting to now introduce automated sorting which will require minimal manual sorting. Our productive capacity will increase exponentially.”
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.
Head of of the new sort house, Mervyn Dettmer, comments: “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.”
The $15 million investment in this project is one of the largest investments of its kind in the Cabo Delgado province. It represents MRM’s commitment, as a Mozambican-based company, to continue to contribute to the development of the Province of Cabo Delgado, the District of Montepuez, the local communities and the country of Mozambique. Its introduction will see improved productivity, more efficient production, a reduced margin of error and, in the medium and long term, a reduction in production costs. The increase in production and expansion in workforce not only benefits the local communities, it also generates greater contribution to the national economy through taxes. This means a greater positive impact for the people of Mozambique, a core value of Gemfields’ operations.
2019 will be a significant year of investment and growth for Gemfields’ ruby mine, as the new sort house will be complemented by the implementation of a new thickener to the wash plant, increasing capacity to 150 tonnes per hour (from 125 tonnes per hour). Two high capacity pre-screen plants will be brought on-line to remove the finer particle material prior to it being fed to the wash-plant, which will result in a greater concentration of the desired size material, further enhancing the wash plant feed capacity.
Gemfields chief executive officer, Sean Gilbertson, states: “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.”