Colombian workers at Fura Gems’ mine claim unsafe operating conditions
Former employees at Fura Gems’ (TSX-V:FUR) Coscuez emerald mine in Colombia claim the operation doesn’t meet global safety standards, adding that workers sometimes lack basic protective gear and equipment.
According to sources quoted by Reuters, the Canadian gemstone mining and marketing company has received repeated requests from staff for masks, safety glasses and other protective gear, but has failed to meet workers’ needs.
Fura, which began operations in May 2017, took up the challenge of reopening four-century-old Coscuez, located in the organized crime-ridden department of Boyacá.
The operation, arguably one of the best-known emerald deposits in the world, yielded some of Colombia’s most impressive green stones for more than 300 years, according to a 2017 technical report.
“We firmly believe that mine has only been scratched on the surface, and the best is yet to come,” Fura Gems chief executive officer, Dev Shetty, told MINING.COM last year. “We estimate that if we capitalize it from the current state itself, [Coscuez] will have a minimum life of about 25 years or more, and there is a potential to expand the life by doing core drilling.”
For decades, residents have scoured the dozens of tunnels crisscrossing Coscuez for precious stones to buy their next meal. Locals say that, at some point, there were hundreds of artisanal miners digging daily.
The Dubai-based company has had to deal with the situation by gradually phasing out access to the shafts while helping community members find alternative employment.
Colombia’s emerald production dropped from its world-leading position in the early 2000’s with 10 million carats a year to 2.6 million a decade later, losing ground to Zambia and Brazil. Social conflict, violence and instability triggered by drug lords weighed on the output decline.
Since a final peace agreement, signed in 2016, foreign companies have regained interest in the country, which today produces less than 25% of global emerald supply, but that represents about 50% of value.