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.
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”.
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.
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.
Hot and wet tropical jungle weather is hardly compatible with a systematic mining process. Working conditions of miners are poor and risky.