Emerald Mines in Colombia

Emerald Mines in Colombia

The home of the most beautiful Colombian emeralds is in the Eastern Cordillera (Oriental) between Cundinamarca and Boyacá in the eastern ridge of the Andes Mountains. The tree main mining areas are Chivor, Muzo and Coscuez. 

Before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1499, the indigenous people of Boyacá had already begun the extraction of the emeralds in the region. Archeologists estimate that the native people commercialized these gems in 1000 AD. Once the Spaniards had established in Colombia, in the different regions, they exploited the gems that ended in the hands of European aristocrats and mogul governors of India. 

During the colonial period, miners extracted emeralds by following the veins end because of the mine issues some works were abandoned in the mid-1600’s. Work was retaken nearly two centuries later and using more modern techniques at the Coscuez mine. These works led to the discovery of a mineral called parasite, a rare fluorocarbonate of cerium. Little has been said about the Coscuez mine activity lately. It has been repeatedly worked, abandoned, and reopened. 

As for the Muzo mine, it has a long history that started when it produced most of the emeralds in the region in the early 1900’s and it was eventually taken over ECOMINAS to try to control illegal mining and back marketing of emeralds. This was a success due to the increase in the exported emeralds. 

The government control of the Colombian mines has been of help to bring peace into these areas where there was conflict between the drug cartels, government, and emerald mining families. 

Regarding the geological setting of the emeralds, there are three main types of deposits where they can be formed: magmatic-metasomatic; sedimentary – metasomatic and metamorphic – metasomatic. Colombia’s emerald deposits are sedimentary – metasomatic. Most of the emeralds are hosted predominantly in shales of the Cretaceous (formed more than 65 million years ago), which makes them unique in the world. The tectonics of the area created the perfect blend for the emeralds to form. 

About the mining methods used to exploit the emeralds, it has changed over the time, some of the techniques used are open-cut mining, tunnelling and use of heavy machinery, as open pit and underground mines.  

The open-cut mining was used mostly because of the steep slopes of the formations covered by the jungled that could only be worked in great terraced banks. The limestone and shale make it easy to remove the emerald crystals. The stones are then separated into several grades according to color, size, transparency, and impurities.  

Tunnelling was used as of 1987 in Muzo mine because of the very limited gems found near the surface. Mining of emeralds seem to be a very manual method and there were even some “guaqueros” (treasure hunters) that would dig through the debris in the hopes of finding emeralds missed by the workers. Tunneling method has limited the number of treasure hunters because of nature of the technique. 

Colombia is second on exporting emeralds just after Zambia. More than 80% of the exports go to the USA, Hong Kong and Switzerland. 

The world of Colombian emeralds is fascinating, however there is very limited information on the production and mining methods used by the mining companies in Colombia. It would be important that companies publicly share their discoveries with the world. 

 

References: 

Dice, S., & Dice, O. M. (2020, May 11). Minería de esmeralda en Colombia: Minería en Línea. Retrieved from https://mineriaenlinea.com/2020/04/mineria-de-esmeralda-en-colombia/ 

Ringsrud, R. (1983). The Coscuez Mine: A Major Source of Colombian Emeralds. Retrieved from https://www.gia.edu/doc/The-Coscuez-Mine-A-Major-Source-of-Colombian-Emeralds.pdf 

Colombia Emerald Mines – A Guide to Colombian Emerald Mining. (2021, May 12). Retrieved from https://www.emeralds.com/education/mining-locations/colombia-emerald-mines/ 

Colombia Emeralds: Investment Sought as Exports Spike. (2021, June 11). Retrieved from https://www.bizlatinhub.com/colombia-emeralds/ 

Jewellery Appraisers of the World. (n.d.). Colombian Emeralds from the Muzo, Coscuez and Chivor mines. Retrieved from https://www.ja-world.com/consumer/emeralds-from-muzo-coscuez-chivor.html 

Episode 7 | Mining Ventures in Colombia

Episode 7 | Mining Ventures in Colombia

✅ The Mining Experience is a live podcast that invites professionals from the mining industry to discuss new technologies, address challenges, and share work experiences. Having one of the largest coal reserves in Latin America, Colombia hosts also a significant amount of nickel and gold. With direct investments from foreign countries, Colombia’s mining industry is expected to rise by 15%, giving it to the potential to attract larger investments. 

This episode has the honor to invite a very special guests: 

➡️ Juan David Gómez is Senior Trade Officer for Mining, Oil and Gas, and Responsible Business Conduct at the Canadian Embassy in Colombia, and his main job is to provide strategic support to Canadian companies and investors interested in doing business in Colombia. Previous to his role as Trade Commissioner, Juan worked as Government Affairs Coordinator for Colombia, Central America and the Latin Caribbean at Shell. Juan Has been working with Global Affairs Canada since September 2017.

➡️ Professor Oscar Jaime Restrepo Baena; professor in the Department of Materials and Minerals of the School of Mines at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and member of the Minerals Institute – CIMEX, where he participates in research projects and head of research in the area of Extractive Metallurgy. 

Professor Oscar obtained the degree of Mining and Metallurgy Engineer in the School of Mines at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and completed the MSc. in Environmental Impact Assessment and the Ph.D. in Metallurgy and Materials at the Universidad de Oviedo, Spain. He completed a post-doctoral stay in the R & D laboratory of the Nubiola Company in Barcelona, Spain, where he also served as director of Research and Development. 

In addition to being the author of numerous scientific and academic articles in the area of extractive metallurgy, sustainability in mining and ceramic materials, Professor Oscar Jaime is also the director of research projects developed with national and international funding and President of the Society of Mining Professors 2019-2021. 

Sustainability in Mining in Colombia

Sustainability in Mining in Colombia

 

The concept of sustainability can be accepted as the fact to utilize things in a way to maintain them so that future generations can enjoy them as well. When talking about mining, it is difficult to apply this concept to a large ore deposit. This is because the main goal it to extract the full orebody to recover minerals, which means that the orebody itself cannot be maintained for future generations. Therefore, when talking about sustainability in mining, we can think of it in a way to reduce environmental damages, energy that feeds processes on mine site, and other factors related to the impact of the surrounding environment. Human beings have been mining since the stone age, trying to produce valuable materials, tools and fertilizers to help them in their daily lives. In the past, little attention was given to the environmental impact caused by the production of these activities, leading to mercury and cyanide being discharged into the environment, for example. 

The current situation in Colombia’s mining industry is quite complex due to the instability of the economy and environmental regulatory issues. Consequently, it is difficult to clearly measure sustainability in mining in Colombia. Many areas, in Colombia’s mining regions, damage the environment and millions of hectares get devastated, which can in return could have been used for agriculture. Therefore, it is crucial to build environmental regulations capable of measuring and quantifying such activities. Perhaps, given the livelihood of people living in Colombia, it is difficult to make such a transition, where people tend to focus more on their financial and educational situation. 

Environmental and Social Assessment (ESA) is one example of how mines in Colombia can assess whether the mining project will be a high-impact project or a low-impact project. Given that Colombia is one of the biggest coal exporter, this is an opportunity to identify the main “pain points” which has the capability to prevent major environmental disasters. This assessment undergoes several stages to identify the impact. For example, in the beginning, an “ESA Screening” is performed, where experts determine the possible impact of the project in question based on previous experience from similar projects. Then, an “ESA Scoping” is done, where the biggest possible environmental impacts are identified. Lastly, the most important step is the “Environmental and Social Management Plan” (ESP), which aims to implement a set of prevention, mitigation, compensation, monitoring and institutional measures to be implemented throughout all phases of the mining project. 

Having a good mining sustainability foundation means that organization must be completely revamped. This will require a significant amount of organization to cope with the fast-paced work environment in the mining industry. This leads to the need of powerful software, able to flawlessly manage mining designs, plans and other information in one secure location that can be accessed easily by an organization. Promine addresses these needs through the Essential Category, which allows users to share up-to-date drawings using the Filer Module. In addition, this project management tool allows to connect to a local server, OneDrive or Google Drive and add unlimited users to your account for managing drawing-level permissions.This unvaluable toolkit allows organizations to easily manage their teams during the fast-moving recovery period of the mining industry. 

 

References: 

MOLINA ESCOBAR, JORGE MARTÍN, & RESTREPO BAENA, OSCAR JAIME (2010). COLOMBIAN MINING SUSTAINABILITY. Dyna, 77(161),149-151.[fecha de Consulta 4 de Agosto de 2021]. ISSN: 0012-7353. Disponible en:   https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=49615347016 

Goodland, R. (2011, December). Best Practice Mining in ColombiaSpeech presented at Best Practice Mining forum.