By Mike Jones
These breathtaking images show what was once one of the world’s most dangerous emerald mines – the notorious Muzo Valley in Colombia.
Jeff Cremer, 40, from Medellin, Colombia, leads motorcycle adventure tours around the country and captured the images and footage in one of his trips.
The pictures were taken in August, in the Colombian Andes, in Muzo, in the department of Boyaca, known as the world capital of emeralds.
After an exciting trip through Aburra valley, Florian and Chiquinquirá, Jeff arrived to his destination and had the chance to meet with the miners and experience first hand what was once one of the world’s most dangerous locations.
He said: “Muzo used to be one of the most dangerous areas of Colombia, due to a war called the Green Wars.
“This war was fought between the paramilitary organisations led by emerald mining families and the Medellin drug cartel who were trying to take over the mines – but now it is a calm place.
“For more than 4,000 years, emeralds have been among the most valuable of all jewels on Earth and since the late 16th century, of all the emeralds in the world, most of them come from Colombia.
“From these open pit mines and dark shafts miners have pulled out emeralds so precious, they have names, such as Fura, at 15,000 carats one of the world’s biggest, named for a mythical unfaithful king whose wife’s tears turned to emeralds.”
Jeff said while the drive to the mining area is only 30 minutes long, it takes visitors back 200 years in time.
He added: “At the end of the earth in, the heat and humidity, in what was formerly one of the most dangerous places on earth, the miners were friendly and came over to me to start conversation and teach me what to look for and how to mine for emeralds.
“You don’t have to pan for emeralds and there is no need to use mercury or other chemicals to help extract the emeralds from the surrounding substrate – you simply use your back and muscle to move the dark earth away and hopefully see a gleaming emerald lying in the rough, it’s that simple.
“Even though the pickings are slim, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of emeralds in the area.
“Even during quick walk through the town square on a Saturday morning you can see miners and salesmen trading and selling gems.
“Entire tables in the park are filled with uncut emeralds being inspected and sorted by quality and colour for sale or shipment to Bogota and just a few miles up the road an entire airstrip has been cut into the jungle where helicopters and light planes from bogota land twice a week to fly out multimillion dollar shipments of emeralds for sale on the world market.
“I have had a lot of amazing adventures, I’ve taken a lot of neat photos along the way and met a lot of interesting people.
“That being said, this was a truly a once in a lifetime adventure and completely different than any other trip I have ever taken. “