Working in the mines…
When people all over the world get to know about the unique blue pectolite, the Dominican blue Larimar stone, they click on the word Larimar and the same story about this stone will show up! Who discovered the Larimar stone, when and where, as well as a few characteristics of this special blue semi-precious stone.
But what about the people who make it possible for us to wear and enjoy of the jewel of the Caribbean, the Larimar stone? We want to talk a little bit about their struggle at the Larimar mines!
The peasants, who planted “yautia” (yams) in the surroundings of the area of the Larimar mine, were the first people to get involved with “the blue stone” as they called it. They collected this “blue stone” before Miguel Mendez followed the trail of the “blue stone” until he reached the peak of the mountain and revealed this best secret to the world!
These peasants turned into miners, as they understood they could make more money at the mine than with agriculture. The Dominican government gave them the concession to exploit the mine of Larimar. All mineral rights in the Dominican Republic belong to the government. In 1985 approx. 100 miners were working at the mine and by recommendation of the government a first cooperative was formed, nowadays there are two cooperatives.
The mine is located in the highest mountain of “Las Filipinas” in the community of Bahoruco, where you will find hundreds of men, naked from the waist up, who are going every day into the deepness of what you could call “hell” searching for Larimar, some have been doing this since over thirty year ago, exposing their lives, to make some money! There is no life insurance, no emergency aid, and no 911!
Every morning when the clock strikes nine, approx. 20 men in group of five, like ant rows, introduce themselves in narrow holes, leading to underground galleries, reinforced with wood to avoid collapsing, it feels like being buried alive. To go down most of them use the wood that serves as ladder and as reinforcement of the pit walls, some use pulley, but other are afraid it might break and they will hurt themselves.
Men of all ages work with rudimentary tools, like shovel, pick and hammer, although lately some have an electric “pick-hammer” tool. Once these miners start working they will start a sort percussion sound, which will be played during eight hours, only interrupted by meal break of one hour!
To be able to work in these infernal holes, air is pumped into the pits at eight o’clock in the morning one hour before the miners start going down.
Actually there are about 40 holes or pits that are up to 200 meters deep. Once they find a Larimar vein they start working their way through corridors, reinforced with wooden frames, which many time become home for many cockroaches; these holes can be productive during several years. To open a new pit can cost approx. US$15,000, and not always Larimar veins are found in new holes!
Cables carrying electricity produced by the generator are introduced into different holes and 220 Volts cables are used in the pits where an electric “pick-hammer” tool is available, exposing their lives to electric shocks.
The president of the Dominican Republic visited the Larimar recently and promised to have ventilated tunnels made to enable the miners to extract this semi-precious stone in a safer way, he promised to technify the whole mining process and to make of this Larimar area a touristic attraction. Also he promised to give the local Larimar artisans the opportunity to learn the art and skill to make professional quality Larimar jewelry. We welcome this initiative of our president and hope he will abide by his promise!!!
In rainy seasons these pit are filled with water and it takes several weeks before the miners can start working again.
If you want to experience their working day, no problem just take your trip to Baoruco and the miners will be more than happy to show how they do their living!