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About 70% of the province's population lives in the highlands; of the other 30%, approximately half live in more urbanized towns, and half live along rivers and in the lowlands, where they practice wetland rice cultivation and engage in market activities.
Within the Khmer Loeu population, 35% were Tampuan as of 1998, 24% were Jarai, 23% were Kreung, 11% were Brou, 3% were Kachok, and 3% were Kavet, with other groups making up the remaining one percent.
Ratanakiri is sparsely populated; its 184,000 residents make up just over 1% of the country's total population.
(See Culture below for more information on traditional subsistence practices.) Many families are beginning to shift production to cash crops such as cashews, mangoes, and tobacco, a trend that has accelerated in recent years.Other economic activities in the province include gem mining and commercial logging.The most abundant gem in Ratanakiri is blue zircon.Small quantities of amethyst, peridot, and black opal are also produced.Gems are generally mined using traditional methods, with individuals digging holes and tunnels and manually removing the gems; recently, however, commercial mining operations have been moving into the province.