08/30/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Xinjiang jade worthy of an emperor running in short supply

Expert in Beijing warns that if the government does not intervene against unrestricted mining, the rare Khotan jade mines will be depleted in five years.

Urumqi (AsiaNews/SCMP) – China's supplies of a rare jade, mainly mined from a river in Xinjiang, will soon be exhausted if excessive exploitation continues, a gem expert warned.

Wang Shiqi, deputy director of Peking University's Gemstone Appraisal Centre, said deposits of Khotan, or Hotan, jade would be depleted in five or six years if the government did not stop the indiscriminate use of heavy excavation machinery along Xinjiang's Yurungkax River, the main source of the stone.

The jade is considered to be the highest quality because of its pure texture and tallow-like lustre, and has been associated with emperors throughout Chinese history.

Khotan jade can sell for up to 1,000 yuan a gram (about 100 euros or 120 dollars US), and prices have rocketed in recent years because of a sharp decrease in output.

The Xinhua news agency reports that prospectors with modern mining equipment have flooded into the region to capitalise on the gemstone's high prices.

According to one jade miner, "there are about 200,000 people and about 2,000 excavators working along the Yurungkax River."

Hotan jade trader Zheng Shengli said he thought the jade would be depleted in no more than three years, noting that "about half of the machines have stopped running now because no gemstones can be found."

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