Ignoring Kashmir Sapphire
Kashmir sapphire is one of the most sought after attraction in the gem industry. The sapphire found in Padder area of Kishtwar district is considered the best6 world wide and there are hundreds of takers for these prized stones.
In May 2013, a ring set with a 19.88 ct cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire was auctioned and it was sold for a whooping over Rs 24 crore. However, the Kashmir sapphire was explored illegally as the J&K government has failed to explore this treasure trove which could give impetus to state’s economy.
Experts in the gem industry believe that sapphire could generate over Rs10,000 crore revenue for the state. However, according to officials of Industries and Commerce department till date no scientific and systematic investigation or exploration has been undertaken and the department is not aware about the quantity as well as quality of reserves.
The unique and precious sapphire mine that Jammu and Kashmir possesses is situated in the highly rugged terrain of great Himalayan range in Sumcham village of tehsil Paddar, district Kishtwar.
The area remains almost snow bound throughout the year except for a few months of summer. Temperature during the working season of July to September remains around 5 degree to 10 degrees during day and around minus 1-2 during night. Inside the mine, temperature remains around minus 2-10 degrees on an average. J&K Minerals Limited, a Govt of J&K undertaking, started mining activity in the area in 1963. Very little mining has been done in the area due to limitations of working period and lack of financial resources with the corporation. The mining activities in the area were suspended by the corporation in 1977-78.
Ironically, since then no serious effort has been undertaken to exploit this precious resource in the state and if any effort was initiated it was either mired in controversy or the proposal could not take shape owing to official apathy.
Despite many efforts and the decision of the government to reserve the area for exploitation by state owned PSU vide SRO-48 of 1988 and reserved the entire area of Sapphire mines in Sumcham Paddar area of erstwhile District Doda in favour of J&K Minerals Limited. However, since then no serious effort was undertaken to start mining on commercial lines and convert this resource as a major contributor towards the dwindling economy of the state.
Even though the state government has been involved in getting global partners involved in the extraction process, the same has not materialized owing to various reasons. The state government did make an effort in March 2018 after a Delhi based company was shortlisted for creating a joint venture with J&K Minerals Limited, the process is still stuck at the approval level.
The Padder sapphire could have proved to a game changer for the state’s economy but why is the glittering sapphire proving a lack luster for the state, is a mystery that needs to be solved.