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CHITTA KATHA, Pakistan: The people of Pakistani Kashmir are sitting on a treasure trove: Millions of rubies, worth up to half a $1 billion, are lying beneath them.Pakistani Kashmir has just one mine and one exploration site, where miners dig to assess the potential of the jewels below. But the region has proven reserves of more than 40 million grams of rubies, and inferred resources of nearly 50 million grams, according to geological surveys commissioned by the provincial executive. Muhammad Azeem spends four months a year toiling in the Chitta Katha mine on the slopes of the Himalayas, which requires an eleven hour drive and then two hours walking to reach from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. Experts believe tapping into the gem reserve could transform the fortunes of a regionthat is home to 4 million people largely living off modest incomes.
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