Sri Lanka’s Multi Billion Rupee Gem Haul

By Nirmala Kannangara Pictures by Asanka Subodha in Kataragama

The Blue Sapphires that were found along the Kataragama- Lunugamvehera road on February 15 are believed to be worth over Rs.10 billion,  Chairman National Gem and Jewellery Authority Prasad Galhena told The Sunday Leader.
According to Galhena, this was the largest ever gem pit found in one place in the entire world. A team of Gem Experts from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) the world’s foremost authority in gemology and gemology research are now in Sri Lanka at the invitation of the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) to research the generic patterns of the blue sapphires that were found in Kataragama.
“We believe that the blue sapphires that were found here are of more worth than the famous Burmese Blue Sapphires and the Kashmir Blue Sapphires. We want these sapphires to be named Kataragama Blue Sapphires and for them to be recognised internationally,” Galhena said.
The team of Gem Experts according to Galhena would be in Sri Lanka for three weeks and the preliminary report on the chemical composition in the soil where these gems were found and the generic patterns of the blues sapphires found would be handed over to the NGJA at the end of next week.
“They will take some of these gems to the USA for further research as we do not have a sophisticated research institute in Sri Lanka,” said Galhena.
Meanwhile Tammannawa – the gem land that was auctioned in Kataragama on February 24 was given only for gem mining for a period of one year but not for any other purposes, claimed Galhena.
Although it was reported that the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) has received a record breaking income from auctioning the three and a half acre land to 52 parties, Galhena told The Sunday Leader that 40 percent of the proceeds had to be paid to the party who owned the land.
“When information emerged that gems were found in the earth that was brought for road construction work, we had to see from where this earth came. Luckily for us it had been brought from land belonging to the Forest Department which comes under the Environment Ministry. Since the NGJA too come under the Environment Ministry it was much easier for us to make a deal to auction the land immediately,” said Galhena.
According to Galhena, immediate arrangements were made to provide security by the army and the 3 ½ acre land was earmarked for 10-15 perch blocks and auctioned on February 24 at the Provincial Secretariat Auditorium, Kataragama.
“The land fetched a record high price to the tune of Rs. 271 million from this auction. It is a first in the history of NGJA. The highest bidder paid Rs. 22 million for 12 perches,” said Galhena.
Galhena further said that apart from the north, land in all other parts of the country has potential for gem bearing.
“Since underground soil belongs to the state, no one is allowed to mine gems even if on their private land. If found to be a gem bearing land anywhere in the country, a license has to be obtained from the NGJA for gem mining,” added Galhena.

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