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True-blue sapphires inspire Baffin treasure hunt

Gemstone test project creates jobs in Kimmirut and Iqaluit

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Thanks to the work of two Inuit prospectors three years ago, a firm called True North Gems, of Vancouver, announced this week that they’ve started a small project aimed at test-digging for sapphires near Kimmirut.

Seemeega Aqpik and Nowdlak Aqpik of Kimmirut discovered the rare gems in 2002.

Called “Beluga” sapphires, the South Baffin stones are naturally blue.

“Unlike most sapphires for sale in the world that have required heat treatment to impart or enhance the beautiful blue colour, the sapphires on Baffin Island are naturally blue, requiring no additional laboratory processing,” a company news release says.

The company also believes that it may be the first sapphire discovery in Canada with the “potential for economic production.”

But they haven’t proven that yet.

To do that, a crew of workers from Kimmirut are using a portable drill and a diamond chain saw to carve bulk samples of rock from the site for testing.

The workers have dug a pit three metres in diameter and two metres deep. In the floor of the pit, they say they’ve found a “massive” chunk of sapphire-bearing rock that’s three metres long, two metres wide and one metre deep – about 15 tonnes of rock available for testing.

Then they will ship the bulk samples to Iqaluit for crushing and sorting, to separate the sapphire material from waste rock. Refined material will be sent south for more advanced testing.

The Beluga sapphire occurrence near Kimmirut is a small bed of rock that’s about three metres wide and 30 metres long.

The biggest sapphires found there range up to three centimetres in length and about half a centimeter in diameter.

The company plans more prospecting work in August. Under their agreement with the site’s rights-holders, they will spend $125,000 over the next four years on exploration work at the site. They’ve paid the rights-holders $70,000, and agreed to pay them a two per cent royalty on any gems found at the site.

After they’ve carried out those commitments, the company will earn 100 per cent ownership of the site.

True North Gems is the owner of the promising Regal Ridge emerald property, located on a mountain-side in the Yukon.

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