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Article: What a Colombian emerald mine looks like


What a Colombian emerald mine looks like

Colombia is recognized as one of the leading emerald producers in the world and has a long tradition in the mining industry of these gems. With so many years of experience in this sector, there are hundreds of miners who day by day and from early hours seek to be left with one of these stones.

For them, it is well known that the Colombian emerald mines are mainly found in the region known as the Emeraldly Belt, located in the departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca. This area is rich in high-quality emerald deposits.

Next, we will give you some general data on what an emerald mine is like in Colombia.

This is a Colombian emerald mine

Most emerald mines in Colombia are open-pit mines. This means that extraction is carried out through the removal of large amounts of land and surface rock to access the underlying emerald deposits.

Once the emerald tank is accessed, galleries and tunnels are created to facilitate extraction. These spaces are narrow and require a specialized workforce to ensure the safety of workers and prevent the collapse of structures.

A Colombian emerald mine will usually have the following features:

  1. Entrance and access: An emerald mine usually has a mine entrance or mouth, which can be an opening on the ground or a built structure. This entrance allows access to the underground galleries where the emeralds are located.
  2. Underground galleries: Once inside the mine, you can find a network of galleries and tunnels that extend below the surface. These passages are narrow and may require artificial lighting to work on them. They are often reinforced with wooden beams or metal structures to prevent collapse.
  3. Excavations and rocks: In the galleries, you can see the excavations where the miners have removed rocks and earth in search of the emerald veins. These rocks can vary in size, from small stones to large rock masses that must be fragmented and removed.
  4. Equipment and tools: Depending on the level of mechanization, you can find equipment and tools used in emerald extraction. This can include pneumatic hammers, drills, front loaders and mining cars. These equipments are used by miners to dig, load and transport the extracted material.
  5. Lighting and ventilation: Due to the lack of natural light in the underground galleries, adequate lighting systems must be installed to allow safe work. In addition, ventilation systems is essential to ensure the supply of fresh air and the evacuation of gases and dust generated during extraction.
  6. Waste and debris: In an emerald mine, it is common to find piles of waste and debris from the extraction process. These may consist of non-emercard-contain rocks, removed land and other discarded materials.

What are the techniques of extraction of Colombian emeralds

Different techniques are used in Colombian emerald mining to extract the gems from the rocks and underground deposits. Some of the most common techniques are mentioned below:

1. Open-air extraction: This technique involves removing large amounts of earth and surface rock to access emerald deposits. Heavy equipment such as excavators and dumps are used to remove the overloaded material and expose emerald veins.

2. Underground mining: In some emerald mines, underground mining is used to extract gems. This technique involves the creation of galleries and underground tunnels to access emerald deposits. Miners work in narrow spaces and can use equipment such as drillers and controlled explosives to extract the rocks containing emeralds.

3. Lixiviation: In some cases, the leaching technique is used to extract emeralds from rocks. This method involves the use of chemical solutions to dissolve emeralds and then recover them through filtration and precipitation processes. Leaching is mainly used in low-quality deposits or when conventional extraction is not feasible.

4. Gravel washing: In some areas, where emeralds are mixed with gravel and sediment, the gravel washing technique is used. It consists of washing the material by using water in drums or gutters, separating emeralds from other lighter materials. This method is mainly used in alluvial deposits and is a simpler and more artisanal technique.

It is important to note that these techniques may vary according to the characteristics of the emerald site and the specific practices of each mine. In addition, efforts have been made in recent years to promote more sustainable and safer practices in emerald mining, seeking to minimize environmental impacts and protect workers' health.

Paula A. Bonilla 

Social communicator and journalist from Sergio Arboleda University in Colombia. She is also a jeweler and is passionate about constantly learning about precious gems and national high jewelry.

Currently, she is working for one of Bogotá's most important jewelry stores, Emerald by Love. This jewelry store has over 40 years of experience and has 2 physical branches in the capital city of Colombia, located in the city center.

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