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. At the same time, these benefits come at a 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 achieve 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 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 to facilitate dialogue with mining stakeholders.

Project Activities

In partnership with MEM and DGM staff, the project team 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.

Additionally, 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 (completed in November 2018). Furthermore, BGC delivered workshops to 16 government staff and over 30 miners on safe tunneling practices.

Cross-cutting Themes

  • Gender:

The project ensured the safety of small-scale miners by reducing the risk of the mine collapse. Female ASM stakeholders benefited from training in gemstone geology, valuation, and the increased data 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.

Project Results

Applied research:

  • Conducted a field-based assessment of amber and Larimar geology, mineralogy, and reserves on the basis of their chemical constituents;
  • Produced research on leading practices of Larimar and amber exploration and extraction to reduce health risks and minimize environmental impacts;
  • Conducted a field assessment on geotechnical hazards related to bell pit mining of Larimar in the Bahoruco region.

Capacity building of government and public mining stakeholders:

  • Delivered training in gemstone geology, valuation, and geology to regional government staff, local professors, and university students;
  • Facilitated a dialogue to engage artisanal miners on key extraction and mine safety issues related to Larimar mining.

Advisory services:

  • In collaboration with SGN, developed a roadmap to reduce geohazards for artisanal mining of Larimar.

Project Impact

The main outcome of the project was the improved availability, quality, and accessibility of geological data to unlock and value the mineral potential of Larimar and amber reserves in the Dominican Republic. The project also encouraged better stakeholder engagement and participation in the support of more safe and efficient ASM mining practices of Larimar in Bahoruco.

project team

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