‘It’s like nothing else on earth’: Rarest of gemstones fuels boom for Alberta miners – Calgary

A Calgary-based mining company says its operation will quadruple in size within 12 months — thanks to prehistoric squid-like creatures transformed into gemstones that can only be found in one spot in the world, southern Alberta.

About 70 million years ago, Korite’s mine would have been found in the bottom of the Bearpaw Sea. Today, it is in the bottom of a coulee about 20 minutes south of Lethbridge, Alta. in the geographic formation is known as the Bearpaw Formation.

Ammolite gems are the result of perfectly preserved prehistoric ammonite being pressed in layers of shale.

While the animal’s fossils can be found around the world, a southern Alberta river basin is the only place where a confluence of factors made the mollusc into a gem. 

Rainbow-hued ammolite, an extremely rare gem found only in a southern Alberta river basin, studs a piece of shale held by spotters. The ring on the left shows an example of the processed gemstone. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

“All the colours are on top of each other, the same as a rainbow — and it’s all natural. So that makes it one of the rarest gemstones in the world,” Rene Trudel, Korite’s operation field manager, told CBC News.

“In this sediment, the preservation is incredible … you cannot find anywhere else the full spectrum [of colours].”

Mining company Korite ‘expanding dramatically’

And that’s good news for Korite, which is scrambling to keep up with surging demand.

“We were mining two acres a year, and in the next 12 months we’ll mine eight acres. So we’re expanding dramatically,” Korite president Jay Maull said.

From left, Rene Trudel, Korite’s operation field manager, and Korite president Jay Maull show some of the unprocessed ammolite found at the mine near Lethbridge, Alta. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

“It’s not only do we have to find it, we have to process it. We were processing about six million carats of gemstone per year. We’re growing to eight million this year, but to meet…

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