Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Wanching stones

So it’s diamonds now ~ or what is believed to be diamonds. We will have to wait till the four Geologists of the State Department of Geology and Mining, assigned by the State Government, complete their task and submit their report to the Government. But this will take time because their report would be incomplete without these stones, recently dug out by people of Wanching Village, in Mon district, being tested in Government-approved labs for gemstones. Almost everyone must have seen videos of Wanching villagers digging out glass or quartz-like stones, which went viral. And, as is human nature anything that glitters is believed to be gold ~ so these pretty stones at Wanching too are believed to be diamonds. But there are also opinions that similar stones were discovered and tested before and were found to be quartz. So, are the recently dug out stones quartz and is quartz totally valueless? In fact, what actually is quartz? Wikipedia says “Quartz is a hard, crystalline mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms. The atoms are linked in a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon-oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall chemical formula of SiO2.” Google says: “Quartz is one of the most useful natural materials. Its usefulness can be linked to its physical and chemical properties. It has a hardness of seven on the Mohs Scale which makes it very durable. It is chemically inert in contact with most substances.” The uses of quartz are: “Transparent Rock Crystal has many electronic uses; it is used as oscillators in radios, watches and pressure gauges, and in the study of optics. Quartz is also used as an abrasive for sandblasting, grinding glass, and cutting soft stones.” And its usage: “Crushed quartz is used as an abrasive in sandpaper, silica sand is employed in sandblasting, and sandstone is still used whole to make whetstones, millstones, and grindstones. Silica glass (also called fused quartz) is used in optics to transmit ultraviolet light.” So, if Wanching’s stones prove to be of acceptably high quality of quartz, it has major implications for the State of Nagaland. But that would also depend on the quantity of quartz in the Wanching area, rest of Mon district, as also across the State ~ because quantity would define industrial significance. Besides, the quantity must be so huge that the investment for exploration, etc., would commensurate with the income/revenue generation and profit margins. Ultimately, if these Wanching stones do prove to be quartz of high quality, much would depend on the reaction and response time of the State Government in terms of how to make the most of it industrially and commercially hence economically. Moreover, the State Government would have to manage things with a kid glove because by and large, land is owned by individuals, clans and tribes. While quartz is not diamond, it also has its uses and economic viability so how we deal with it is what will make a difference in our economic profile. We also need to be aware that once economic profiles change, so do social, cultural and political profiles. Here too, much would depend on how we manage changed economic, social, cultural and political situations and scenarios. The other issue would be a change in our agricultural landscape ~ because minerals generate more and faster income than agriculture and allied activities. What should also be of major concern is that these minerals are found on private land, not Government or Corporate land, but that could soon change, which in turn could displace many people in their quest for economic autonomy. But please be very clear that all these are still in the realm of speculations ~ still, things happen, discoveries are made, economics intrude into the scene and things change. This has happened all over the world through the ages and there is nothing to say similar events will not come to pass in Nagaland. It is not so much need and poverty that determine an individual’s thought processes and course of action but insatiable human greed ~ and yes aspirations and ambitions too ~ that has always determined the course of history. And, this is exactly where the calibre of social, cultural, economic and political leadership is tested, counted and validated. Now, supposing the Wanching stones actually turn out to be diamonds? We’ll deal with that when it happens. Meanwhile, the Wanching Village Council deserves salutations for astutely handling the “stony” situation so far.