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At Bario-Neal jewelry we source our sapphires from the Chimwadzulu Hill Mine in Southern Malawi. Malawi’s shallow deposits of sapphires promote small scale mining activity that lessens its impact on the surrounding area. The Chimwadzulu Hill Mine protects wildlife habitats, streams, watersheds, and groundwater by operating only during the dry season from April to October. The mining operation is kept modest in scope to improve future reclamation efforts after the projected 20-year lifespan of the mine. Today, 70 people work at the Chimwadzulu Hill Mine, making it the largest operation of its kind in Malawi and an important contributor to the local economy. The mine embraces fair trade principlesby paying above-average wages and offering health benefits to all workers. The sapphires are cut and polished at a factory in China which is a pioneer in the jewelry industry, paying workers three times the minimum wage and offering comprehensive employee benefits.
The Chimwadzulu Hill Mine was formed through a pioneering lease with the Malawi Mining Agency that addresses community concerns from health and education to long-term community development. Through the agreement, the mine has built an elementary school in the surrounding area that supports 450 pupils. The agreement also includes rebuilding a local medical clinic and building four teacher housing units at the school. The mine is also setting up a subsidiary to train local artisans, benefiting local economic development.