London--Gemfields has entered into a joint venture with East West Gem Investment Limited in Sri Lanka to add sapphires to its portfolio of colored gemstones, which already includes emeralds and rubies.

Under the agreement, Gemfields acquires 75 percent of the operating interests in 16 of East West’s exploration licenses, covering a variety of minerals, for $400,000.

The joint venture will look to take advantage of Gemfields’ exploration and gemstone experience to replicate the projects the mining company has in Zambia and Mozambique.

Through it, Gemfields and East West Gem also will establish a gemstone trading company called Ratnapura Lanka Gemstones, which will focus on sourcing rough sapphires from various sources in the local market.

Gemfields said that it intends to apply its proprietary gemstone grading systems and marketing methodologies to offer the gems to international buyers through its rough gemstone auction platforms, adding value to Sri Lankan gemstone production to grow the sector and contribute to economic development.

“We are delighted to announce our entry into what we consider to be the third of the ‘big three’ colored gemstones,” said Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle. “With revenue-producing emerald and ruby operations in Zambia and Mozambique already in the Gemfields’ portfolio, the proposed development of sapphire operations in Sri Lanka will realize our stated red, blue and green ‘traffic light’ of colored gemstones strategy.”

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