Economy

J&K floats global tender for mining of Kashmir sapphires

Press Trust of India Jammu | Updated on March 13, 2011

Famous for their unique peacock blue colour, Kashmir sapphires will soon make a comeback in international markets with the State government floating a global tender for extraction of the gemstones from Paddar Valley in Kishtwar district.

“The government has gone for global tendering to ensure systematic extraction of sapphire at Paddar Valley in Kishtwar district. The step has been initiated to ensure competitive bidding on a large scale with utmost transparency,” the State Minister for Industries and Commerce, Mr Surjeet Singh Salthia, told PTI.

“We have already received one tender from a global company. It is yet to be opened. We are expecting some more in this regard,” Mr Salathia said.

The Minister hoped that Paddar sapphires would make a comeback in the market.

State-run J&K Minerals Ltd had invited expressions of interest (EoIs) from interested parties with expertise in exploration, mine planning and mining of gemstones for undertaking exploration of sapphires in Paddar through a joint venture, the Minister said.

J&K Minerals Ltd holds the mining lease for a 6.65 sq km area on GT Sheet 52/C at Paddar, situated at a height of 4,327 metres.

Based on the EoIs received, qualified parties will be short-listed for submission of technical and financial bids, he said.

Unique features

According to a notice of J&K Minerals, the precious mineral is world famous because of its unique peacock blue colour, which is rarely available in other parts of the world.

The sapphires are renowned for their clarity and transparency and are mainly used for jewellery, with a high ornamental value.

Till now, extreme geographical conditions and lack of resources have hampered commercial exploitation of this valuable natural reserve, officials of J&K Minerals Ltd said.

“We expect to see change on this front soon, as the government has entered the final stage of awarding the tender of extraction to a major company,” they said.

The companies will be assessed for their financial and technical capability, as well as past experience, to ensure that the Paddar sapphires are mined in the most scientific manner, they added.

Great demand

Extraction of these sapphires from mines in Paddar began in 1885 and they achieved a legendary status in the jewellery world. The gems mined during this period are valued highly and usually fetch enormous prices around the world, officials said.

“Their colour holds up in all kinds of light, which experts describe as a magical property, compared with other fine sapphires such as Burmese stones, which lose their rich colour in the evening light,” they said, adding that the stone has a magical ‘velvety' effect, creating a soft, yet strong colour.

The price of these pure sapphires easily crosses $100,000 a carat, making them the most expensive in their category.

The State industries department plans to undertake a satellite survey as part of a multi-pronged study to determine the sapphire deposits. Toward this end, the Indian Remote Sensing Centre at Hyderabad was contacted to lend its expertise last year, they said, adding that the survey is expected take place this year.

Published on March 13, 2011

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