Muscat: Priceless meteorites found in the deserts of Oman are being smuggled out of the country and sold by tourists in the American and French markets.
More than 3,336 meteorites have been discovered in the Omani deserts, mostly in Wusta and Dhofar governorates. This has led to meteorite hunters from foreign countries visiting Omani deserts to search for outer-space rocks.
A senior official of the Mining Department at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry told Times of Oman that most meteorite hunters enter the country at Omani border posts in rented vehicles, which make it difficult for security officers to apprehend them.
According to officials, a meteorite found in Oman was recently offered for sale for millions of dollars in the international markets.
Further, most Omani meteorites are sold at well-known events, such as the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossils Showcase in the USA and the Ensisheim Meteorite Show in France.
Michael Farmer, an American, was released from the Omani Central Prison in Samayil in 2011 after being jailed for attempting to smuggle an expensive meteorite, the Dhofar 1180 Lunar, out of the country.
Farmer did, however, sell an iron meteorite from Oman for $200,000 (OMR 77,000).
Other cases of smuggling were discovered on Masirah Island, where tourists stole large quantities of meteorites that are used for making necklaces and bracelets.
In order to control the smuggling of meteorites, those seeking meteorites should obtain a licence from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, according to officials.
Also, officials confirmed that a law might be enacted to preserve Omani meteorites, as well as provide larger penalties, in an attempt to curb smuggling.
The necessity of licences to sell meteorites has reduced the amount of smuggling from Oman.
Oman comes in second place, following Antarctica, for discovering meteorites, according to a study held in Oman. Unfortunately, many Omanis are unaware of the importance of meteorites.
Additionally, the smuggling of cats' eyes shells from Masirah Island by tourists continues on a regular basis, as well as Geode stones from Dhofar in the wilayat of Thumrait, which are often collected and sold outside the country. Geological experts believe it very important to approve a law to preserve Oman's meteorites; otherwise, officials fear, the smuggling of meteorites will increase over time.
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