On August 11th, 2023, we marked the 45th anniversary of the Belmont Emeralds Mine’s registration with Brazil’s National Department of Mineral Production. This journey has been nothing less than extraordinary, solidifying our reputation as a global benchmark for sustainable mining practices.
In this blog post, we’ve revisited and transcribed an article originally published by local media at the time (Revista Itabira – Ed. #1 – Dec 1978). Dive into this historical moment in the Belmont Emeralds narrative.”
(Texts and Photos by J.I/R.I.)
In the second half of ’78, the press from all over the country reported the discovery of an emerald deposit in Minas Gerais. More specifically, in Oliveira Castro. Indeed, in Itabira. On lands owned by Mr. Mauro Ribeiro Lage.
Although major newspapers and magazines reported the event, conflicting and confusing information was presented to the public.
In this first issue of RI, Mr. Mauro Ribeiro, for the first time, welcomes the press to provide detailed information about the mine’s discovery and other data the public is eager to know.
Undoubtedly, the significant event of the year for Itabira, whose commerce was affected by the city’s decline, reached its peak in ’78: the discovery of the deposit of these little green stones that haunted the dreams and sleepless nights of Fernão Dias Paes Leme, the emeralds.
In the words of Mr. Mauro Ribeiro himself, the discovery happened like this: “I had a pond built on the land of the farm in Oliveira Castro over a year ago for cattle to drink from, damming the stream that runs through there. The material used for the dam was taken from the site itself. This place is near the train track of the Vitória to Minas Railway, which had been cut during the railway’s construction and again recently when it was expanded.
Naturally, like all ponds and dams, we created an “overflow,” a small channel. As water washed through it, little stones began to appear at the bottom. José Otta Melo, a train station agent, first suspected their worth. He descends from a family of miners and had a hunch. So much so that for seven years, he had been digging in the region. He stumbled upon some of these stones at the bottom of the overflow channel and took them for examination. After learning of the results, he asked for my permission to explore the colored stones further. Initially, I declined, but later I allowed it. He invited some miner acquaintances of his, and they began working. In the meantime, I started the paperwork for the mining registration for beryl, with the possibility of finding emeralds because, at the time, everything wasn’t yet clear. A geologist we consulted even told us that it was “possible to find some beryl, but never emeralds.”
On August 11th of that year, we applied to DNPM under No. 830.142 for the mining registration, which we now Belmont Emeralds mine possess.
It’s interesting to note that the owner of the mine rarely uses the word “emerald.” He refers to them as “the merchandise” when talking about the precious stones. According to him, new stones are found every day, and about 50 miners, all registered, currently work at the site. We had the chance to see and photograph them and even held the production from a day’s mining, which filled a small safe carried by Quinca, an inspector. The mining is done manually, waiting for DNPM’s permission to use mechanical processes.
Foreigners Are Arriving
“The immediate commercialization of the precious stones is underway. We often sell to foreigners of various nationalities like Germans, Indians, Italians, etc., who have been flocking to the site. At times, the number of vehicles at the mine is so large that passers-by on the nearby road (connecting Itabira to Nova Era) have asked if it’s a funeral or some party.”
The city’s commerce has already benefited from the discovery. Whether it’s the hotel and food sector, international phone calls, or the entire infrastructure catering to outsiders’ needs.
– “Experts claim that our stone is of the best quality found in Brazil.”
– “Access to the site is quite challenging, as you’ve seen (this reporter had to cross the river on foot, getting wet up to almost his waist), because the City Mayor, despite pre-election promises, hasn’t rebuilt a bridge that provides access to various farms in the region, including ours.”
– “There are only three emerald deposits in Brazil: one in Bahia (Canaúba), one in Goiás, and ours in Itabira – MG.”
– “Reports from other magazines and newspapers published some untruths, like the fact that there’s a padlock on the farm gate, supposedly put there after the discovery of the stones: that padlock has always been there. It locks the property, as is customary for farmers in the region, to prevent someone driving by from leaving the gate open, causing cattle to venture onto the railway tracks or cause accidents on the road.”
– “There was also a rumor spread by the media that the areas had been invaded. This never happened.”
– “The rest is told through your photographs.”