were some very valuable pits at Weralupe, which originally were tlaimed
and held by the Temple, but when the land was "rejected" by the Temple
Land Commissioner and taken over by the Crown, the Government Agent
called on his Assistant lo slop the gemming operations, and to assert
the rights of the Government.
These pits were afterwards sold, but close to the stream and adjoining the Assistant Agent's house there are still
some gemming grounds which are considered valuable. A short time ago it
was brought to the notice of my predecessor, Mr. Russell, that parties
were again gemming in these pits and streams. He then issued the
general order complained of by petitioners, and I have caused that
order to be strictly enforced.
question as to whether or not it would be advisable to derive a revenue
by leasing the right to gem on Crown lands has before been brought to
the notice bf Government, and having read over the correspondence, I do
not find the reasons urged against such a proceeding to be so
convincing as to prevent me from expressing my opinion in favour of the
suggestions made by Messrs. Mitford and Mooyart, and I most strongly
recommend that the right of gemming on Government lands should be
annually leased. In this I differ from the gentlemen aforenamed, that I
recommend an annual lease and not a collection of .revenue by license
appears to me that to altogether prevent persons gemming on waste lands
and in public streams, unless the Government intend to prosecute the
search for gems themselves, is to conceal the resources of the country
and to prevent the development of a trade, which is, I consider,
capable of very great extension.
enquiries t have made, I find that about ,£4,000 to ^5,000 worth of
gems are exported from the Sabaragamuwa district each year, and there
can be no doubt that many of these gems are found in public streams and
on waste lands. It is calculated by those who are qualified to judge of
such matters, that if any person bought the right to gem on Crown
lands, and could conduct his operations openly and not as at present by
stealth, that he would realize at least ^3,000 a year. When persons
owning land on which gems are known to be found give gemmers the right
to search, they exact a proportion varying from one-third to one-fifth
of all the gems discovered! Taking this as a standard, the right to gem
Crown lands in Sabaragamuwa should rent for about ^700 or ,£800 a year.
calculation, though in excess of the estimates made by Messrsi Mitford
and Mooyart is under what I am led to believe the rent for 1868 would
realize, and unless I have been greatly and purposely mis-informed, the
figures I quote are under the general estimates made by persons
possessing practical knowledge of the matter.
agent here of the principal jeweller (Assena Marikaf or the Gem Notary)
tells me that the rent would fetch more than ^tooo a year, and that he
himself would be inclined to offer ,£500 a year for the right to gem in
one stream alone (the Niwitigala River).
the rent of the first year would probably be far less than would be
obtained in after years, for it would soon become known what sums had
been realized and what spots had produced stones of any value. I doubt
not that offers would be made to buy some of the lands, whilst the
value of the right to gem would not be diminished, for each year new
pits would be sunk and fresh discoveries made.
In 1866 Mr. Birch sold 1 } acres of such lands (close to the Asst. Govti Agent's house) in lots, and realized £\ZO. One
lot of t7 perches Or 22 yards square fetched the sum of /nj 15s, and I
am told by a shareholder in this purchase, that the purchasers sunk two
pits in the land (which is large enough to contain five pits), and in
last year realized over £$03, and cleaned