Wilmington, Del.–The Tiffany & Co. Foundation granted the University of Delaware with the funding to launch a knowledge hub for the colored gemstone market.
The university’s Saleem Ali, a professor of energy and environment, will use the $350,000 grant to create an open-access repository for existing knowledge about the colored stone market and target critical research needed to address the obstacles faced by those involved in gem mining and manufacturing.
The Mineralogical Museum on UD’s campus will provide a platform for education.
Ali said that while he believes there are significant social and environmental concerns around the supply chain, there also are many opportunities to create sustainable economies from the sale of gemstone products.
“By creating a hub at UD, we hope to provide science-based information to enhance sustainability efforts and cross-cutting education and training that can serve as a resource to the colored gemstone supply chain,” Ali said in a press release.
Collaborators on the knowledge hub project include colleagues at University of Queensland in Australia, and University of Lausanne in Switzerland.
Research will center on the following four main themes.
–Mining and geology of colored gemstone deposits;
–Processing and manufacturing of colored gemstones;
–Gender analysis of colored gemstone supply chains; and
–Economic development impact of the colored gemstone sector.
There will be two signature projects. The first will focus on empowering miners in Madagascar, especially women, with skills, training and mentoring so that they may increase their revenues from colored gemstone mining.
The second will delve into the health and safety aspects surrounding colored gemstone mining and processing in South Asia, especially in relation to concerns about silica and fine particles of quartz.
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Silicosis is a respiratory distress syndrome that comes as a result of workers inhaling airborne silica dust. The debilitating and often-fatal disease is a major occupational health risk associated with the mining, cutting and polishing of gemstones.
Ali said they plan to test and deploy equipment that miners and gem cutters who are exposed to mineral dust can wear to monitor the particulate matter around them.
Established in 2000, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation seeks to preserve the world’s most treasured landscapes and seascapes by supporting organizations dedicated to caring for natural resources in the areas of responsible mining and coral conservation.