Gemstone and Amber Mining in the Dominican Republic


Dominican Republic

Focus Area

Artisanal and Small-scale Mining




Mike Ellerbeck

sustainable development goals




Global Affairs Canada
Ministry of Mines - Dominican Republic

Who Benefits

Geoscience Institute of the Dominican Republic (SGN)
Artisanal and small-scale miners in project area


Mining communities in the Dominican Republic

Delivery Partners

Uniersity of British Columbia

Geoscience Institute of the Dominican Republic

BGC Engineering

The Challenge

Gemstone resources in the Dominican Republic hold significant potential to increase income opportunities for artisanal and small-scale miners but mining activity has come at significant cost to human health and the environment. The Ministry of Energy and Mines for the Dominican Republic recently requested technical support in artisanal and small-scale gemstone mining specifically to address challenges in understanding mineral potential of Larimar and amber reserves based on geological and mineralogical data. They also requested geotechnical assistance to enhance mine safety and mitigate risks to human health.

CIRDI's Approach

CIRDI is taking a three-pronged approach to achieving the overall goal of the improved use of geological data and safe, environmentally sound mining practices to sustainably benefit ASM miners of Larimar and amber resources in the Dominican Republic. CIRDI has engaged two technical experts to provide technical guidance and leadership in the assessment of gemstone reserves in the Barahona region. Through continued communication with SGN, they will jointly generate a technical report including the assessment of Larimar reserves and recommendations regarding resource-efficient and safe extraction methods of amber and Larimar. CIRDI has also engaged a geotechnical consulting company, BGC Engineering to provide technical guidance and leadership in the creation of a roadmap to reduce geohazards for artisanal mining of Larimar. This will be co-developed by SGN. Both reports will be used by SGN to create a Larimar geology 101 training guidebook that can be disseminated to, and facilitate dialogue with, mining stakeholders.

Project Components

  1. Applied research
  • Field-based assessment of amber and Larimar geology, minerology and reserves conducted on the basis of their chemical constituents
  • Research conducted on leading practices of Larimar and amber exploration and extraction to reduce health risks and minimize environmental impacts
  • Field assessment conducted on geotechnical hazards related to bellpit mining of Larimar in the Bahoruco region


  1. Capacity building of government and public mining stakeholders
  • Training in gemstone geology, valuation and geology delivered to regional government staff, local professors and university students
  • Dialogue facilitated to engage artisanal miners on key extraction and mine safety issues related to Larimar mining


  1. Advisory services
  • Roadmap to reduce geohazards for artisanal mining of Larimar co-developed with SGN

Cross-cutting Themes

Gender – The project will support public safety of small-scale miners by reducing the risk of mine collapse. Female ASM stakeholders will also benefit from training in gemstone geology, valuation and geology and have access to reports based on field assessments.


Environment – Technical experts will undertake field assessments to evaluate the health risks and potential environmental impacts of exploration and extraction practices. This will inform a technical report on resource efficient and safe extraction methods of amber and Larimar that minimize environmental impacts and reduce health risks.


Governance – By helping the MEM understand its gemstone mineral wealth, the government will be better prepared to make informed (evidence-based) decisions on natural resource governance of high-value resources. This will help them manage the resource effectively for the benefit of the country.

Activities to Date

BGC conducted a preliminary site visit in June 2017 and documented their observations in a memorandum. Dr. Groat and Dr. Turner conducted a cursory field assessment for Larimar valuation in November 2017. Both activities were carried out jointly with SGN staff and included a component of capacity building. Initial reports are being jointly discussed in order to determine next steps.

Intended Impact

This project aims to:

  • Improve use of geological data to unlock and value mineral potential of Larimar and amber reserves in the Dominican Republic
  • Improve viability for stakeholder engagement in the support of more safe and efficient ASM mining practices of Larimar in Bahoruco

Sustainable Development Goals – Project Contributions

Quality Education

Partners with UBC professors, BGC, and Geoscience Institute of the Dominican Republic (GIDR) to create training guidebooks disseminated through engagement with artisanal miners on key extraction and mine safety issues regarding Larimar mining.

Decent Work and Economic Growth

Partners with GIDR to provide artisanal and small-scale miners with alternative safe extraction methods of amber and Larimar to improve working conditions.

Responsible Consumption and Production

Field-based assessment of Larimar and amber geology, mineralogy and reserves strengthens the government’s ability to support artisanal and small-scale miners and inform environmentally sound mining practices.

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Facilitates dialogue between artisanal miners and GIDR on key extraction and mine safety issues to improve communication and trust between ASM stakeholders. Strengthens relationships for scholarly exchange between CIRDI and the GIDR on gemstone geology, minerology and future prospects for value addition.

project team

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