The absolute majority of people who are linked to the emerald mining in Muzo are guaqueros (the treasure hunters). Unfortunately this kind of mining does not offer much of the treasure. The absolute majority of people who are linked to the emerald mining in Muzo are guaqueros (the treasure hunters). Unfortunately this kind of mining does not offer much of the treasure.
Guaqueros fight over the waste rock thrown away in front of the private mine. The material has already been processed by heavy machinery and there have been no significant finds in it. Guaqueros fight over the waste rock thrown away in front of the private mine. The material has already been processed by heavy machinery and there have been no significant finds in it.
It has been estimated that there are about 15.000 miners permanently working in all mines of the central Colombia. This number increased up to 50.000 people during the “green fever”. It has been estimated that there are about 15.000 miners permanently working in all mines of the central Colombia. This number increased up to 50.000 people during the “green fever”.
When the Earth gives over the treasure, Colombian miners say that “it paints” due to the beautiful green color of emeralds found in the rock. If there is no rain, the Earth gets dry and “it does not paint”. When the Earth gives over the treasure, Colombian miners say that “it paints” due to the beautiful green color of emeralds found in the rock. If there is no rain, the Earth gets dry and “it does not paint”.
The main source of the emerald production is generated by big mine companies. They hire a minor part of guaqueros to work in subterranean pits using industrial technology. The main source of the emerald production is generated by big mine companies. They hire a minor part of guaqueros to work in subterranean pits using industrial technology.
In the last years it is not allowed to create new open cuts on the surface. Miners have to work at the old, already mined out places. In the last years it is not allowed to create new open cuts on the surface. Miners have to work at the old, already mined out places.
The Muzo mining area lacks the road connection with the nearest settled region. There is no electricity delivery service, neither drinking water distribution or a sewer in the miners camp. The Muzo mining area lacks the road connection with the nearest settled region. There is no electricity delivery service, neither drinking water distribution or a sewer in the miners camp.
According to the Colombian statistics there is 16.000 inhabitants in the town of Muzo, 1300 are children and 45 percent of them work in the nearby emerald mines. According to the Colombian statistics there is 16.000 inhabitants in the town of Muzo, 1300 are children and 45 percent of them work in the nearby emerald mines.
Hot and wet tropical jungle weather is hardly compatible with a systematic mining process. Working conditions of miners are poor and risky. Hot and wet tropical jungle weather is hardly compatible with a systematic mining process. Working conditions of miners are poor and risky.

Emerald mining in Colombia

Muzo, Boyacá Department, Colombia – April 2006

Despite of a persisting civil war conflict and related difficulties Colombia still produces 60 percent of world emerald production. Due to the special clarity and deep vivid green color, gemstones from Muzo are considered the most beautiful emeralds in the world. There have been thousands of treasure hunters coming to Muzo during last decades. They have been searching for a fortune, infatuated by so-callled green fever. Obviously - there have been very few of those who succeed. The major part of guaqueros (emerald miners) spent long years in the hot and wet unhospitable jungle working hard, they contracted malaria or tropical diseases but they still kept their dream about magic green stone alive. The rich gemstone collectors from the US and Europe often call emeralds “green fire”. With no doubt the places of emerald mining may be called a green hell.

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