From Prism Volume II 2024: Map the Mine, Pavas Emerald Mine in Boyaca State, Muzo, Colombia

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

Seeing (More) Green in Muzo

Oren Nhaissi, Managing Director, EMCO Gem, Inc., and Edwin Molina, fourth-generation Colombian Emerald miner, team up to work an untapped concession.

Hi, friends!

We are delighted to share news of a mining concession we are jointly working in the municipality of Muzo, Colombia. Muzo was established in 1559 by Spanish conquistadors for the sole purpose of seeking Emeralds. In 1561, just two years after its founding, settlers unearthed Emeralds, sparking a tradition of mining that has endured within the local community ever since.

Our site is called the Pavas mine, and it is in the Boyacá region of the Muzo geological formation along the western Emerald belt. The name Pavas comes from the Spanish word for turkey. Legend has it that the first explorers or artisanal miners discovered a large rough Emerald shaped like a turkey egg, which prompted the initial mining exploration of the concession. Pavas also borders esteemed historical alluvial Emerald deposits.

Oren and his company are well known for beautiful loose Emeralds and have been operating for more than 85 years. I, Edwin, am a fourth-generation miner who serves on the board of directors of the Cunas mine in Santa Rosa, Colombia. I am also president of the Association of Emerald Producers of Colombia. My grandfather and his partners were responsible for mining several areas in Muzo over the years, including that of Minería Texas Colombia (MTC) Muzo, which branded itself as Muzo Emeralds.

Two years ago, the direction of Oren’s and my businesses intersected when our partners took interest in mining the concessions around Pavas. The Pavas mine is owned by the government—all mines in Colombia are—so we secured a 30-year lease to work it, as is the common practice in the country. While Pavas is close to other mines in Muzo, Pavas has remained untouched by formal mining practices, having only undergone exploratory efforts by local artisanal miners over the years.

Since assuming control of the concession, we have been setting up correct infrastructure and operations, including fixing roads and mine entrances and fortifying the 8 kilometers of early prospector-made tunnels we inherited. To do that, we enlisted the expertise of geologists to identify the most promising areas for Emerald formations. For the first time in the history of this concession, we are conducting formal mining operations and exploration deep below ground level in search of these coveted Emeralds.

We also set up a storage area for explosives, adhering to stringent government-mandated mining compliance laws that cover aspects such as miner safety and environmental and social responsibility.

For example, in 2023 we were required to conduct a comprehensive and costly resource and reserve study to demonstrate the adequacy of reserves necessary for the continuation of our mining operation. This means giving the government a better understanding of our operations and estimating the value of our deposit, which is difficult to do, especially when little has been pulled out of the ground to date.

There are also environmental challenges in this region of Colombia. Heavy rains often cause landslides, and as we delve deeper into the earth, water becomes an issue. Colombian Emeralds originate from hydrothermal deposits from millions of years ago, and managing water within the mine proves to be one of our most arduous tasks as well as one of the costlier aspects of mining in this region. Established mines often delve hundreds of meters down into mountains in pursuit of these precious gems.

Despite two rainy seasons—spring and fall—we mine all year long. Challenges include numerous unpaved and mountainous roads, making navigation exceptionally difficult. This year, during the spring rainy season, a landslide destroyed our main access road. To regain access, we had to restore an existing road in a different location.

By mid-2024, we anticipate our inaugural production from our newly targeted area, where we’ve already discovered Emerald-producing veins. Being deeper within the mountain, we anticipate encountering groundwater and facing the typical challenges of tunneling and prospecting for Emerald pockets. Each day presents new hurdles, but with them comes a sense of anticipation and excitement.


Best regards,

Oren Nhaissi and Edwin Molina

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