Zambia's main emerald producer Kagem Emerald Mining said it planned to launch the country's first underground mining for emeralds in the not so distant future, a company official said on Thursday.
The company, which accounts for 50 percent of Zambia's emerald production, has been operating an open pit mine over the years but has in recent years conducted exploration to check the extent of the existent of the emeralds.
Chandana Suresh, the company's director for operations, told Xinhua on the sidelines of a conducted tour of the mine that the company has, since 2009, been conducting a feasibility study on whether it could venture into underground mining, which he said has shown positive results.
"We have been doing exploration works at the same time to identify where emeralds are and we have so far done 200 meters of drilling underground. We feel that underground mining of emeralds is the way to go for Zambia. This will open large opportunities for the emeralds industry in Zambia," he said.
The feasibility study was conducted to ensure proper ventilation, safety, water situation and rock structure and that about 3 million U.S. dollars has been spent so far on the project.
The official said the commencement of the underground mining project will increase the lifespan of the mine to another 25 years.
Zambia is the third largest emerald producer in the world after Colombia and Brazil and the three countries account for more than 70 percent of the world's supply of rough emeralds.