Chinese man hunts fortune in Mozambique
Updated: 2014-06-29 08:18
By Wang Chao (China Daily)
Ge Zhaoping and his body guard. Provided to China Daily
Robbers and charlatans are just two of the dangers this gem buyer faces, Wang Chao reports.
Ge Zhaoping is a man who learns his lessons well. These days when he heads out into the Mozambique mountains looking to make his fortune, he goes with a guard brandishing an AK-47.
A couple of years ago Ge was in a small, remote gem mine in Mozambique with a local guide and, through thick grass and from two or three meters away, heard what he thought were a few local miners chatting away.
The guide suddenly jabbed a finger into him and whispered anxiously, "Let's get out of here." After the pair fled from the site, the guide told him the group they had overheard had been sizing them up for robbery. After a few other similar close calls, Ge decided that having a bodyguard would be a good insurance policy.
"With a gunman beside me I feel much safer," he says.
While diamonds might be a girl's best friend, Ge's best friends are johnstonotites, sapphires and tanzanites. Fortunately for Africa, and for Ge, these gems are to be found on the continent hidden sparsely in mountainous areas.
Mozambique is home to various gems, especially high-quality johnstonotite. The gem vein stretches 1,000 kilometers north from the Indian Ocean port of Beira, the country's second-largest city, and searching for johnstonotite is a preoccupation, if not an occupation, of thousands of locals. The intrepid Ge crosses mountains and rivers looking to buy the gems from small-time miners.
"I visit these mines one by one, riding a motorcycle, seeking out the best stuff," Ge says. "If I am interested, we sit down and negotiate a price, and I pay them cash."