Tanzanite Sorting Goes High-Tech

Most colored gems are mined using “traditional” (read: “primitive”) techniques. A pick, a shovel, some dynamite, a few timbers, and you have yourself a mine. Recovering gems from the ensuing rubble is similarly quaint. A worker, huddled over a pile of rock or poised over a conveyor belt as rocks pass by, picks up rough crystals from the debris. TanzaniteOne, which owns the rights to mine the prime location of the Merelani tanzanite mine in Tanzania, has changed all that. The company recently installed optical sorters, which previously had been used only for diamond mining. X-ray optical sorting machines, which replaced grease tables, recover 99 percent of all diamonds from the dirt and rock brought up from diamond mines. Optical sorting of tanzanite is already paying dividends, according to Mervyn Dettmer, TanzaniteOne’s final-recovery manager. “Tanzanite recovery average
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