OF MOUNTAINS AND RICE
From Afghanistan through Vietnam, the grand continent of Asia lies ruptured, a victim of the greatest collision the planet has ever seen, that of Island India striking the Asian mainland. As the Indian Subcontinent sped north at the geologic equivalent of a two-minute mile, it met an immobile force, that of Earth’s greatest continent—Asia. The result was the planet’s finest mountain range (the Himalayas)—and some of Earth’s finest gem deposits.
Fortunately for us these events took place within the tropics, regions never touched by the Ice Ages. Thus the sorting work of Mother Nature was allowed to proceed without interruption. While glaciers descended upon the temperate climes, in places like Burma, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, it was rain, rain, rain, dissolving mountains hard rock and and freeing their component minerals. And in the land of the free, only the strong survive.
This resulted in an unprecidented sorting of sediments, where weaker rocks were abraded or dissolved away, leaving behind only the most heavy, maleable, tough or hard. Precious metals, such as gold, silver and platinum. And precious stones like diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz. And a red stone bigger than any ruby—spinel.
But what of rice? In the lands that cascade down from this momentous geologic car crash, weathering created fertile soils. The domestication of rice quickly spread across much of Asia, nurturing the planet’s greatest concentration of humanity. From China to Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos,, Vietnam, Bangladash through India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and beyond, rice farming developed into the principle occupation of much of the population.
Planting rice involves tilling the soil. Tilling the soil exposes sediments. In these lands, the sediments are the product of millions of years of weathering, where mountains were broken apart by the relentless rains. Thus tilling the soil exposes gems. Many of the planet’s finest sources of spinel are found in these ancient streambeds, exposed by rice farming.