Cabo Delgado, a province scarred by insurgency, is now facing another threat: a surge in illegal ruby mining. Young people, lured by the promise of riches, are digging for gems in a desperate scramble that comes at a steep cost.

This unregulated free-for-all is causing irreparable environmental damage, with unregulated digging techniques leaving behind a ravaged landscape. But the human cost is even more alarming. Deaths by accidental burial in collapsed mineshafts are a constant threat, highlighting the dangers faced by these unregulated miners.

The epicenter of this illegal mining boom is the Montepuez district, where the Montepuez Ruby Mining Company (MRM) operates legally. MRM has become an unwilling battleground, with hundreds of illegal miners invading their concession in recent months. The company has tragically reported multiple deaths on their property, a grim testament to the desperation driving this illegal activity.

Experts fear that this illicit ruby trade may be fueling the flames of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado. The windfall profits generated by these gemstones could be financing the armed groups wreaking havoc in the region.


Norte Luali, Director of Provincial Infrastructure Services in Cabo Delgado, acknowledges the gravity of the situation. He admits that the authorities are struggling to contain the illegal mining, describing it as a “major problem” and a “challenge.”

The government’s proposed solution is to formalize the industry. Luali suggests organizing artisanal miners into cooperatives, granting them a legitimate path to participate in the ruby trade.

Whether this strategy will quell the illegal mining frenzy remains to be seen. Cabo Delgado’s ruby rush is a story of desperation, environmental destruction, and potential funding for armed conflict. The Sundays Times calls for a swift and decisive response from the Mozambican government to contain this crisis before it further destabilizes the already fragile region.

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