Meteorites for sale at US$8,000 per gram after fireball near China-Myanmar border sparks treasure hunt

Meteor showers village with rocks, causing scramble to claim fragments in the hope of selling them at inflated prices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 8:57pm

About 200 meteorites have been recovered in southwestern China after a fireball event occurred last Friday, leading to a rush to find and sell the rare rocks, according to mainland media reports.

The fireball, or meteor, was seen about 9:40pm, when a ball of flame arched across the sky near Xishuangbanna, an autonomous prefecture in Yunnan province, bordering Myanmar and Laos, local media Yunnan.cn reported.

Meteorites – fragments of the meteor – were later found in a village in Menghai county, in Xishuangbanna, prompting a treasure hunt by villagers, scientists and stargazers.

By Monday evening, about 200 meteorites had been found, with the larger fragments weighing hundreds of grams, according to a report by news site Thepaper.cn.

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Videos shared online include dashboard cam footage of the meteor itself, and clips showing damaged buildings and meteorites.

Meteorites have been touted for sale at up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,800) per gram, rather than the usual price of about 100 yuan per gram, according to the local government.

The authorities warned villagers on Monday that the meteorites would be of scientific worth rather than valuable to collectors.

“Please be rational about the incident and don’t blindly believe in becoming rich overnight by discovering meteorites,” the government said. “Good life is created by your own efforts.”

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During the Mid-Autumn Festival in October, a similar fireball incident lit up the sky in Yunnan.

Recorded by Nasa 164km from Lijiang, a city in the northwest of the province, it entered the Earth’s atmosphere at more than 52,000km/h and carried an impact energy equivalent to 540 tonnes of TNT explosives, the space agency said.

The biggest fireball event recorded in China was in 2009, when a meteor was recorded carrying the energy equivalent to 2,300 tonnes of TNT explosives.