Gemstone and Amber Mining in the Dominican Republic


Dominican Republic

Focus Area

Environment and Climate Change





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 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 took 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 jointly generated 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. Both reports were 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, mineralogy 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 bell pit 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 supported public safety of small-scale miners by reducing the risk of mine collapse. Female ASM stakeholders also benefited from training in gemstone geology, valuation and geology and had access to reports based on field assessments.

  • Environment:

Technical experts have undertaken field assessments to evaluate the health risks and potential environmental impacts of exploration and extraction practices. This informed 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 was better prepared to make informed (evidence-based) decisions on natural resource governance of high-value resources. This helped them manage the resource effectively for the benefit of the country.

Project Activities

1.In partnership with MEM and DGM staff, the BGC team and the UBC team both conducted preliminary site visits in 2017 to collect baseline data, review existing information, and further refine their scopes of work. Both teams presented preliminary reports:

  • BGC – Site Visit Memo & Preliminary Hazard Evaluation
  • Lee Groat & David Turner – Site Visit Memo & Localized Geological Study Plan
  • David Turner – Recommended Regional Exploration Parameters

It was determined that the questions regarding geotechnical safety and mineral valuation required similar data collection, therefore BGC set to work with the DR counterparts on data collection and tunnel stability monitoring.

2. A monitoring program was developed and DR staff were trained in tunnel safety monitoring. The tunnel conditions have been regularly monitored since July of 2018. The data has been used to develop geotechnical recommendations for tunnel stabilization (delivered Nov 2018). Furthermore, BGC delivered workshops to 16 government staff and over 30 miners on safe tunnelling practices. BGC will continue to support the DGM and MEM as the government determines how to use the provided recommendations.

Intended Impact

The project aimed to:

  • Improve the 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.

project team

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