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Anakie, Australia, Sapphire Mining Region

The Anakie area is one of Australia's truly major gem fields, ranking in importance with the opal fields of South Australi and New South Wale. Sapphire-bearing gravels known to local miners as "wash" occur over an area of approximately 900 square kilometers. The "wash" varies from only a few centimeters to over 15 meters in thickness, and can be buried by many meters of barren overburden. The government has set aside designated areas for "fossickers" to try their hand at sapphire "mining," as well as other areas for small to large scale mining activities. Shown here is one of the smaller commercial operations. The sheet metal on the ground covers holes going down approximately 10 meters to the sapphire "wash." The sapphire-bearing gravel is hoisted to the surface, washed and size-classified in the trommel, and a concentrate of heavy material is made by jigging. Most of the water-worn sapphire from this area tends toward a dark shade of blue or blue-green. Exceptional yellow and parti-colored gems and star sapphires have been found along with zircon, garnet, and spinel. Rainfall in this area is seasonal, and can either flood the mines or halt operations when there is no water available to wash the gem-bearing gravel. As beautiful as these sapphires are, nearby Retreat Creek has other gems.