ACEH - The Nagan Raya regency administration in Aceh has initiated construction of a jade-encrusted mosque which is expected to be a 75 by 50 meter building worth a total of Rp 150 billion (S$15.8 million).
The mosque, set to be named the Baitul A'la Grand Mosque, will be constructed in the Suka Makmue office complex in the regency. Jade tiles will cover the building's interior and some of its exterior.
Nagan Raya Development Planning Board (Bappeda) chairman Teuku Raja Keumangan said that all the jade for the construction would be quarried from a forest in Beutong district.
The regency administration has also designated a 5-hectare area for a nephrite jade quarry in the forest as well as a 10-ha area for a factory or workshop to process the precious stone.
Keumangan said that a total of 37,000 jade tiles measuring 60 by 60 centimeters would be processed by a company from Jakarta for the mosque construction.
"God willing, by April, all tools and equipment needed for quarrying the jade will have arrived in Beutong," Keumangan said on Thursday as quoted by tribbunnews.com.
The official stated that the forest in Beutong was not a protected forest or an otherwise forbidden area according to the state.
The forest area was open for exploration and exploitation, he said.
Keumangan said that the construction was meant as a way to express gratitude to God for blessing the regency with high-valued mineral deposits that are some of the best quality in the world.
The construction has been prepared over the last few years, using regency funds. This year, the regency has earmarked Rp 30 billion for the construction.
"Hopefully, the mosque will be completed before the end of the year. The jade tiles will encrust the floor, walls, roof and also the mosque dome," Keumangan said.
Construction work has continued, with workers laying the foundations of the mosque and also preparing for its basement, which will be used for a number of purposes including a parking area.
Nagan Raya regent Zulkarnaini said the jade mosque was expected to become an icon of the regency, as well as setting a record for being the first jade-encrusted mosque.
The regent also said that jade tiles would only be installed within the mosque area. "If we install them on the fence wall too and then they get stolen, it would create a new problem," Zulkarnaini said.
In February, the discovery of a jade boulder thought to weigh 20 tons in Gampong Krueng Isep in Beutong created tension among local people and outsiders fighting for a piece of the gemstone. The police and military had to deploy personnel to guard the boulder.
Gemstone fever has hit major cities across the archipelago, including the capital Jakarta, since last year.
Gemstones as a hobby, along with a belief about the stones' supernatural elements, have long been popular among Indonesian men. The new gemstone fad, however, has infected women too.
Gemstone prices vary, from Rp 50,000 to some of the more expensive stones being traded for millions of rupiah.
In particular, the bacan gemstone of North Maluku, which comes in shades of green, has gained wild popularity thanks to reports that former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wore one and even gave one to US President Barack Obama as a souvenir when the latter visited Indonesia a few years ago.