Around 10,000 children aged from 10 to 15 years old are working with shovels and sieves the leftovers and debris of stones and mud from the emeralds mines in Muzo municipality, 90 kilometers north of Bogota, Colombia.
The work is to find tiny emeralds or dust from them escaped from the filter of the mine. They are deep green stones, considered by gemologists as the highest quality in the world. They also use the children to chop on very narrow tunnels.
Life in that town revolves around the exploitation of emerald mining and for that community “each one practices the mining where they want without relying on the community,” “everyone works on their own without relying on other families or associate with them.”
And of course, the parents themselves induce their children, even minors to the task of extracting the emerald. Thereby becoming, in one of the towns of the country with the highest illiterate population.
The encouragement to school simply does not exist. Likewise, poverty and overcrowding is the common denominator in Muzo municipality (average 10 people per room). Where sexual abuse between siblings or parents to children, is on the agenda.
The exploitation of emeralds requires children a great physical effort and subject to various risks that endanger their physical integrity (when exposed to extreme temperatures, toxic odors or the presence of airborne dust, insect bites and / or animal bites, noises or vibrations permanent) and as the psychological impact, which shows a violation of their human rights as being minors.
In Colombia, children of this mining town, breaks record in respiratory diseases, is the place with the highest number of sick children.
Few opportunities exist for these children. There, those who define their future is the greed, the ignorance, the impunity, the interests and the collective complicity of the Muzo residents.
When we look at an earring, necklace or ring with emeralds, let us try to observe well those pieces , certainly in its most dense part, most intimate of that stone, we will discover the shape of the face of one of those children who remained without a future.
By Lenin Cardozo / Mariana Jaramillo