Adventurers and trekkers from world over can hardly resist the qualms of venturing in the unspoiled and rugged territories of Northern Pakistan, primarily for the breathtaking sights and to witness the highest mountain ranges in the world up close and personal.
Many however, remain oblivious of the fact that these mountain ranges are also home of some of the precious gems and stones in the world.
The geological change that occurred some 50-million years ago, creating these massive mountain ranges, is also known to be the primary reason why these places are rich in gemstones. Various rock formations and minerals were subjected to several thousand tons of pressure originating from the movement of tectonic plates, thereby reducing these rocks to gemstones and rare compounds.
Some of these rare precious stones, extensively used in jeweler industry includes Peridot, Aquamarine, Topaz (various colors: violet and pink, golden and champagne), Ruby, Emerald, rare-earth minerals Bastnaesite and Xenotime, Sphene, Tourmaline, and many varieties and types of Quartz.
Government’s negligence in the promotion and excavation of these gems forced the local populace to search for these precious gems on their own, resulting in what could be effectively termed as the “San Francisco Gold Rush” of Pakistan.
Ill-equipped and oblivious of the mining techniques, these people used explosives to initiate diggings and blasting and distributing the costs that may incur during the mining period.
Eventually realizing the importance of the hidden wealth right under its nose, Gemstones Corporation of Pakistan was established in 1979 to effectively explore Pakistan’s own share of wealth in minerals and to facilitate gemstone mining and business in Pakistan.
The GCP was dissolved in 1997 in wake of administrative hiccups and corruption and the task was later assigned to Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (formerly Export Promotion Bureau) and All Pakistan Commercial Exporters.
Since 1994, the annual Pakistan Gems and Mineral Show has been held in Peshawar with their joint collaboration, during four days in October. It has not as yet, however, attracted any potential buyers from abroad. Its few stalls on display cannot fulfill any of the requisite needs of experienced buyers from abroad, especially the USA and Europe.
The few potential/major gemstone mining areas in Pakistan are: (only major gemstones yielded are mentioned)
Northwest Frontier Province
Swat (Malakand division) – Emerald, various types of quartz, and epidote
Dir (Malakand division) – Corundum and quartz
Mansehra (Hazara division) – Corundum and smoky quartz
Kohistan (Hazara division) – Peridot
Peshawar district (Frontier province) – Quartz with astrophyllite/reibeckite fiber inclusions, xenotime, and bastnaesite.
Federally Administered Tribal Areas
Mohmand Agency – Emerald, clinozoisite, sphene, and epidote
Bajaur Agency – Emerald, garnet, and orange-colour scapolite
Khyber Agency – Quartz with astrophyllite/reibeckite fibers inclusions, xenotime, and bastnaesite
North and South Waziristan Agencies – Faden quartz, diamond quartz, phantom quartz, chlorite-included quartz, and window quartz
Chilas (Diamer district) – Alluvial diopside, zircon, rutile quartz, aquamarine, and tourmaline
Gilgi , Hunza, and Shigar (Gilgit district) – Aquamarine, topaz (golden and white), emerald (new find), ruby, pollucite, rutile quartz, morganite, apatite, spinel, and pargasite
Shengus, Stak Nala, and Tormiq Nala (Baltistan Skardu Road, Baltistan district) – Aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline, apatite, sphene, morganite, and quartz
Shigar Proper (near Skardu, Baltistan district) – Apatite, zoisite, rutile quartz, epidote, and morganite
Childee, Kashmal, and Yuno (Shigar area, near Skardu, Baltistan district) – Aquamarine, emerald-colour tourmaline, apatite, morganite, topaz, and quartz
Hyderabad, Testun, Dassu, Net Tahirabad, and Goyungo (Shigar area, Baltistan district) – Topaz (best golden colour here), aquamarine, tourmaline, morganite, rare earth minerals, apatite, quartz, and new find emerald
Appu Aligund, Fuljo, Braldu, Bashu, and Karma (Baltistan district) – Tourmaline, aquamarine, garnets,diopside, ruby, pargasite, emerald, topaz, amethyst, scheelite, and quartz
Khappalu and near Siachin area (Gaanshai area, Baltistan district) – Aquamarine, amethyst, and fine golden rutile quartz
Kharan district – Brookite, anatase, and quartz
Chaman (near Quetta) – Diamond quartz, window quartz, quartz on prehnite-base, and faden quartz included by chlorite
General information: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/pk.html
All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association of Rough & Un-Polished Precious & Semi Precious Stones: http://www.gems.com.pk
Trade Development Authority of Pakistan: http://www.tdap.gov.pk
Gems and Gemmological Institute of Pakistan: http://www.ggip.com.pk/
A Letter from Pakistan: True adventure from Pala International’s daring suppliers
Pakistan: 2006 – A Year in Review
Pakistan Update – 8/15/07