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Improved safety for larimar miners

Larimar, the pale blue semi-precious stone that is thought to be unique to the southwestern mountainous area of Barahona province, has been both good and bad for the people in an area where work opportunities are scarce.

Over the last 40 years, larimar mining has provided a basic income for around 1,000 miners and their families, but it is known to be a high-risk occupation. Six workers have suffocated to death in recent years, four in 2006 and two in 2013. The mines are up to 400 feet deep and are poorly lit. In addition the men do not wear helmets or protective goggles. The only ventilation is provided by perforated tubes that pump air underground.

However, Dominican officials have been trying to make it safer and have completed a 400-yard tunnel as part of a US$5 million European aid program. It will be open in April 2015 and as well as providing safer working conditions, it is hoped it will reach new veins of larimar. The program also includes a school for training local people in cutting and polishing the stone and making it into jewelry. So far 130 students have enrolled to learn how to use the modern machinery. A gift shop is on the premises, too.

The word larimar is a combination of the name Larisa, after the daughter of Miguel Mendez, the man who discovered the stone in 1974, and the Spanish word for sea, mar. Mendez was helped by a Peace Corps volunteer, Norman Rilling who was also a geologist.

The Museum and Workshop is located right on the Barahona highway, a short distance from Casa Bonita Eco Lodge.

Source: DR1, ABCnews

April 1, 2015

Category: DR News |

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