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Marketing Ploy - Azurite from Laos

Posted by Michael J Stott  
Michael J Stott April 03, 2018 06:21AM
Hi Mindat community,

After being contact by several collectors for information over the past few weeks, I would like to help make people aware of a current prevalent scam in the labeling of azurite from Laos. Some eBay sellers are providing the full location of Khanong Pit, Sepon Mine but some sellers are simply writing Laos as the source. I currently work at Sepon as a geologist, and have done so for over 10 years now. No specimen grade azurite has been produced in Khanong Pit since mid 2015, most of the ore currently being mined from the two small cutbacks is primary (sulphide) ore, not oxide minerals.

I am not claiming that the azurite is fake, simply that the claimed location is incorrect. The azurite is most likely from China, and virtually all the sellers that I have seen with this material are Chinese.

In talking to one seller via email this week, they stated the specimens they had for sale were mined in 2018 and that there are many Chinese workers at Sepon who then sell specimens to Chinese traders. The company I work for only employs Lao workers for jobs such as machinery operators with expats only being employed in specialist roles. There may be one or two Chinese employees on site, but certainly not many. The other copper miner in Laos (PanAust) mines sulphidic ore (chalcopyrite and bornite) and they do not produce any specimens. Being a keen collector, I have many eyes and ears out locally and I am sure that I would have found out if there was any other location producing specimens in Laos.

Buyer beware :)
Mario Pauwels April 03, 2018 11:17AM
Thank you very much for your 'inside' information about these 'Laos' Azurites. Since a few years already there are those rumors that Laos as locality was incorrect for most of the offered specimens. It was assumed that by far most of these specimens came from China, but apparently nobody could confirm this. So it is good to have this confirmed by someone who works at the mine for such a long time.

Best regards,
Mario Pauwels
Uwe Kolitsch April 03, 2018 12:03PM
Khanong Pit page updated.
Antoine Barthélemy April 03, 2018 03:37PM
Thank you Michael for this interesting information!

Is there a way to distinguish between the Laotian azurites and the Chinese ones? And would you have a name for the Chinese locality currently producing these azurites?
Michael J Stott April 09, 2018 09:20AM
Good questions Antoine,

Firstly, sorry I have am certainly not brave enough to hazard a guess as to the Chinese locations. I suspect there are several actually, as I have seen quite a few different styles of matrix.

As for identifying Sepon specimens, I can only offer a few guidelines:

- I have never seen a Sepon specimen with quartz in the matrix. The matrix at Sepon is usually goethite/limonite/ironstone, always something rich in iron.
- Blocky, square section crystals like those usually found at Tsumeb are very rare at Sepon. Sepon azurites are mostly bladed or tabular.
- I have only seen a few specimens at Sepon where the azurite could be described as earthy or had dull lustre.
- Most of the larger (>1cm) crystals at Sepon are internally pseudomorphed by malachite, with the outer layer (possibly a later generation) of fresh azurite being less than 0.5mm thick. The Chinese material often has an out coating of azurite that is 1 - 2mm thick.

eBay seller cn-6186 has a lot currently listed and I do not believe that a single one they are selling is from Khanong pit. Seller 'hongrunstone' is also selling material that I very highly doubt is from Sepon.

The above are guidelines only, there are likely to be exceptions to the rule, and some are impossible to say for sure.
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