Not giving up yet on its intention to tap the potential of the world-famous Kashmir sapphire gemstone,the Jammu and Kashmir government has floated a fresh tender to attract the attention of international and national players interested in its extraction.
“A fresh global tender has been floated to tap the potential of high-grade and world-famous sapphire (mined) in Kishtar belt of the state,” Minister for Industries and Commerce Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo told PTI.
The new tenders follow the previous offer inviting Expression of Interest which failed to generate much response as “only one major company had submitted the proposal for extraction of sapphire,” Kichloo said.
“We do not want to give the contract this way”. J&K Minerals Ltd,a state government enterprise,yesterday issued a fresh global tender inviting parties with expertise in mine-planning,exploration and mining of gemstones to undertake exploration and exploitation of sapphire through a joint venture.
Sapphire from Paddar Valley in Kishtwar district is famous the world over for its unique peacock-blue colour.
The minister,also a local MLA from Kishtwar,is keen on the project and hopes that the Paddar sapphire would soon make a return to markets worldwide. “We are going to speed up the process to ensure the exploitation of this sapphire wealth,” Kichloo said.
JKML holds a mine lease over an area of 6.65 square kilometre on GT Sheet 52/C at Paddar,at a height of 4,327 meters. Following the 45-day deadline for answering to the tender,a list of parties will be prepared who will be issued a Request for Proposal to submit their technical and financial bids.
Kichloo said that the companies will be assessed for their financial and technical capabilities as well as past experience given that the state government is keen to have them mining conducted along the most scientific lines.
The sapphire from Paddar is renowned for its unmatched clarity and transparency and is mainly used in jewellery.
The minister said that the two-decade long militancy in the state,extreme geographical conditions and a lack of resources have till date hampered the commercial exploitation of this valuable natural reserve,which was first undertakenm in Paddar in 1885.
“Their colour holds up in all kinds of light,which experts describe as a magical property when compared with other fine sapphires such as Burmese stones which lose their rich colour in the evening light,” said officials at JKML.
The presence of microscopic inclusions in the stone gives it a magical ‘velvety’ effect,creating a soft yet strong colour like peacock blue. The price of pure sapphire can easily cross USD 100,000 for a carat,making it the most expensive in its category.
JKML goes for extraction during two months in the summers and has extracted over 8,000 gm of raw sapphire,known as corundum. Sold in auctions,these have attracted buyers from as far as South East Asia in the past two years.