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There are two main provinces in Cambodia that mine gemstones: Paillin in West Cambodia, near the Thai border and Ratanakiri in North East Cambodia, near the Vietnam border.


Paillin for many years has been the source of quality Sapphires. However, similar to its neighbours, yields over recent years have continued to fall and most mining in the region today is undertaken by small mining organisations.

The historic location of Ratanakiri is without any major roads and is virtually inaccessible (especially in the rainy season) by the outside world. The region is one of the most beautiful and undeveloped areas in Cambodia, where electricity and running water are almost non-existent. It is also one of the few places on Earth where traditional tribes still exist, cut off from the outside world.

Although their numbers are decreasing, it is estimated that some 60,000 tribespeople still reside in its tree-topped hills. Other than subsistence farming, gemstone mining is one of the few commercial activities to take place in the region. Ratanakiri actually derives its name from combining the Cambodian words for “gems” and “mountains”. The main gem mined in Ratanakiri is Zircon and many agree that some of the best quality in the world comes from this tribal area. Other mines produce limited quantities of Amethyst and Peridot.

There have also been several reports on the internet of Zircon being mined at Preah Vihear, very near to Angkor Wat (one of the seven wonders of the world). However, I have some very good friends who recently visited the area looking for this new source of Zircon and they came back empty handed, convinced that the only mining in the area is small families panning for gold. So do be careful when using the internet for research as you to could end up on a unfruitful journey.

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Some of the finest Zircon is thought to come from Cambodia.