Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cleaning Up the Emerald Industry?

Taking a stand. Emerald dealers march yesterday on Plaza Rosario.
Emerald traders examine loose emeralds
 on the sidewalk by Carrera Septima and Jimenez Ave.,
the city's informal emerald market. 
Bogotá's emerald industry workers protested yesterday against a law which they fear will force them out of business or into illegality.

The law requires emerald workers, all the way from informal miners to exporters, to register and issue receipts and, of course, pay taxes. It also requires certificates of origin on all emeralds stating where they were mined.

The government says the law is intended to formalize an industry historically characterized by illegal and informal mines, as well as relationships with smugglers, drug traffickers, paramilitaries and other illegal groups. Many emerald mines have also historically been dangerous and have illegally employed children. In addition, the big emerald miners, popularly known as 'czars', have sometimes waged violent war among themselves, killing thousands.

Ready to formalize? Emerald miners toil amidst
head and mud. (Photo from: Pacifista)
Many observers have also noted that, despite the huge mines in Muzo and other places, the industry pays few taxes.

But is this law realistic? Are its demands practicable? If not, it will just transform many emerald workers from being being just informal to being outright illegal.

Emeralds in a window of the Emerald Trade Center on Jimenez Ave.
Loose emeralds for sale. 
The Emerald Trade Ceneter on Jimenez Ave. in La Candelaria.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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