While Fura's gradual approach to cutting off tunnel access may ward off violent raids like those that hit rival Mineria Texas Colombia MTC , the jury is still out on the long-term prospects for the company and Coscuez. Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC delivered to your inbox.
Fura has pledged to gradually phase out access to the shafts while helping locals find alternative employment like baking, sewing and poultry farming.
Fura, formed by former executives at Gemfields Group , the world's largest ruby and emerald producer, aims to change that. In 2015, armed bandits attacked MTC's Muzo mine, using explosives to blow off a tunnel's steel doors and shooting at workers.
The search for emeralds comes at a cost. Later, locals were upset when MTC complied with environmental regulations and stopped dumping mine debris in the river, depriving them of another source of gems. Locals say there are hundreds of people digging daily. For the decade leading up to 2005, Colombia accounted for 47 percent of global emerald output, but that declined due to factors ranging from a lack of new discoveries to global oversupply.
Miners work on 8-hour shifts on a run of 20 days on followed by 10 days off.
Related Securities Symbol. Informal mining is a pervasive challenge in the gemstone sector, said Sebastian Sahla, of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, a non-profit focused on oil and mining, adding he has not analyzed Fura.
MTC is the first foreign investor involved in the trade in Colombia. The company hopes this will help prevent security problems like those that hit a mine in nearby Muzo, known as the world's emerald capital.
The company invested millions in the production, allowing them to filter out more emeralds, but leave fewer scraps. Most of the residents in the municipality of Muzo work in mining. Alternative employment often falters because informal mining is more lucrative, he said, while confrontational approaches typically fail because they can sour community relations. Company walks fine line to revive Colombia emerald mine. In May the MTC plant was invaded, workers were beaten and riot police sprayed tear gas leaving one dead.
A crowd gathers around a cockfighting pit in Muzo, Colombia, on July 25, 2015. Get In Touch. We want to hear from you. MTC purchased the mine from the legendary emerald czar Victor Carraza in 2013. Apart from the rare chance that they strike big, informal emerald miners usually make between 100,000 to 200,000 pesos a month, about 35-70 dollars. More than 96 percent of Fura's 270 employees are from Coscuez, said Shetty, adding it eventually plans to employ at least 400 at the mine. Global demand has grown "significantly" over the last decade, he added.