Larimar mining is considered “artisan mining”, meaning that it is small-scale and informal, carried out by individuals or small groups using minimal machinery and equipment. It is a major driver of community development, by providing jobs and ensuring profits for local villagers in the surrounding region.
Alternative employment in the area is limited to low-paying sectors such as agriculture and fishing. In contrast to industrial-scale mining, the miner’s earnings are spent locally, supporting sustainable economic growth within their own community.
Forty years ago the deposit of larimar was on the surface, but over time that material has been mined out requiring the shafts to go deeper and deeper. The best quality larimar is often found in a layer between two different types of rocks, so the miners dig vertical shafts down until they hit this boundary layer and then start tunneling around looking for the veins of Larimar.
A vein of larimar can be as small as a couple of inches up to around twenty inches wide. The lengths vary from a few inches to several feet long. Several small larimar veins are usually located in the same area, so once a vein is located, they follow it until it runs out, which means that the tunnels twist and turn in every direction.
Machinery and dynamite have a tendency to damage the larimar stone and make it unusable, yet the ground consists of hard igneous rock so the only solution is to dig manually with pickaxes and small tools to aid in breaking up the stone.
Currently, the deepest larimar mines are several hundred feet deep and take about 2 years to excavate. It is not uncommon for miners to spend several years digging without finding a single piece of larimar.
Will Larimar run out?
Due to the very small deposits of larimar and the limited financial value of the larimar deposit extensive geological surveys of the land have never been done. The available quantity of larimar is unknown, but what is known is that the surface area has been mined out, so now the shafts are chasing the larimar deposit deep into the mountain.