Sunday, November 1, 2015

Powdered Quartz for Semi Conductor Chips: Value Addition for Pennies

This is graphite sorting. Breaking Quartz into chips is more labor intensive
From Power Point presentation on Economic Geology.
Quartz is mined in Sri Lanka and exported mainly for the use in the micro chip/silicon wafers in the semi conductor industry.  There is very little value addition even though some of the mining companies are BOI.  Basically the women workers break the stone into little pieces and then it is crushed into powder and exported.

Powdered Quartz is Rs. 3,600 (~US $ 32) a ton whereas one kilo gram of the purified product is worth nearly US $ 50,000 according to an article in the Asian Tribune. This same article reports on a proposal for a semi-conductor plant to be built by Toyota. Wonder what happened to that project.

In terms of value addition and providing jobs its worse than tea/rubber estate workers. How can this be an BOI investment when Sri Lanka is getting pennies in value addition.

When will Sri Lanka create such value added products such as lenses (camera, watch etc), Crystalline carvings, micro chip/silicon wafers for the semi conductor industry.

So what is Quartz:
Quartz  it is SiO2 or sand in a special crystal structure. Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the world. However, naturally occurring quartz crystals of extremely high purity needed for growing silicon wafers in the semiconductor industry is rare. In Sri Lanka there are formations where 99.9% pure quartz is available.  These quartz and and other gem formations are associated with metamorphic rocks and are thought to have happened 1,000-3,000 million years ago during the creation of Rondina the “mother” of all subsequent continents.

When quartz has impurities in its crystal structure then colored gems such as citrine, rose quartz, Amethyst and Topaz are formed. See this article for more info on color centers (natural or artificial) that will make quartz a valuable gemstone.

Sri Lanka has very good value addition for quartz and related stones as gems. Read this article (and many more) from the Gemological Institute of America  for a good overview of the gem industry in Sri Lanka.

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