Rare gem mine expands in Alberta 

KORITE's mine is currently the world's only source of legally mined ammolite

Alberta isn't the first place one thinks of when contemplating the world's best sources of gems. But if you thought the Canadian province is only known for oil sands, rodeos and hockey, you'd be wrong. It also keeps a well-hidden geological secret: ammolite.

Named for a thin, irridiscent shell material found on two species of ammonite fossils, gem-quality ammolite produces spectacular colours. The gem is extremely rare; the only place it is currently mined for commercial use is along the St. Mary River in Southwestern Alberta, where the ammolite is wrought from thin layers in the Bearpaw Formation which hosts ammonite fossils, according to Geology.com.

ammonite

A few weeks ago the company that operates the largest ammolite mine in the world, in Alberta, announced that due to high demand, it is expanding its KORITE mine. It recently broke ground on the new area to be mined.

"To keep pace with the growing popularity of the gemstone and our incredible sales growth, we are excited to announce our expansion plans are now in motion," President Jay Maull said in a press release. "Over the next year we plan to open an additional eight acres of ammolite rich land, re-affirming KORITE is operating the largest mine of its kind in the world."

The mine is set to add an additional 2 million carats in 2017, boosting its annual production to 8 million carats. Opened in 2003, the KORITE SM4 mine has produced more than 42 million carats, states KORITE. The company also says it controls more than 90 per cent of the world's known ammolite resources.

In addition to mining ammolite, KORITE's design and production division sells fine jewellery in more than 28 countries.