“These are desperate Afghans, risking life and limb and, since a new law banning mining without a license came into effect in 2005 , the wrath of their central government for a chance to carve jewels out of these mountains. It’s a tradition these miners are loath to give up, even though losing any more from their number could jeopardize the enterprise altogether. So when Mohammad Salim, a twenty-four-year-old father of three, resurfaces from the depths with limbs intact, there is more than one reason to celebrate. “We will find rubies today,” one of the miners says, embracing Salim with typically Afghan decorum.
And they do — a modest haul, but significant under the circumstances. These mountains are a treasure trove of precious and semi-precious stones (amethyst, tourmaline, pink and blue sapphires), as is Afghanistan in general. Though high-quality rubies are rare here, those found often rival the best in the world. Perhaps one or two of the dull red rocks they extract today will become glittering, fortune-fetching gems. Before that happens, however, they’ll need to make quite a journey.”
– An excerpt from “All That Glitters” in the June 2007 issue of The Walrus