Santa Fe de Antioquia, a Colombian town of gold activity and great jewelery tradition, wants to turn into a new tourist engine the "ethical gold" extracted by artisanal miners and that ends up in the hands of goldsmiths.
The initiative emerged after hosting last July the Latin American symposium "En Construcción III", a scenario that showed attendees the links of the aquifer activity of this population, located less than two hours from Medellin.
"Around this activity of gold we want to generate the design of a tourist product as it is a gold route", told Efe the Secretary of Economic Development, Tourism and Environment of Santa Fe de Antioquia, Dayana Giraldo.
He specified that this route is currently in the design phase, but "we are already doing some pilots" to measure the impact on tourists.
The symposium, promoted by the Swiss brand Chopard, committed to its commitment to "ethical gold", in addition to bringing together international experts in jewelry, was for Santa Fe de Antioquia an "impulse" to continue with a process of formalization of mining craft of subsistence.
Later, they will work with artisans and jewelers, who transform gold and market their pieces from tourism, but can "open other channels" in the near future.
"We want to strengthen each of these links in the chain by formalizing them to give a greater projection, including an opening also to an export of jewelery," Giraldo told Efe.
In addition, he assured that there is also an intention to postulate as intangible cultural heritage to the jewelery activity that is part of the identity of this town to guarantee "protection actions".
Giraldo stressed that this activity generates many jobs and therefore visualizes a type of "community tourism" that serves as "economic dynamisation of the territory."
In that creation of a gold route, the barequeros (artisanal miners) will have a stellar role for the magic that surrounds this ancestral and empirical practice, without any link with illegal mining and that does not affect the environment.
On the beaches of the Cauca River and in tributary streams, Gustavo Alcaraz arrives in the mornings armed with a shovel, a batea, a hoe and a screen in search of "some sparkles" that represent his livelihood in days that do not exceed eight hours.
"It's very exhausting," he explains as he launches a little of the "virgin gold" he managed to separate from the ground.
"This process requires patience, talent and wide-eyed eyes, it's not just washing," added Alcaraz, one of the city's many barequeros.
He describes his work as "something highly valued and recognized", and highlighted its "pure and ancestral origin, without machinery or chemicals".
Gustavo Andrés Ceballos, in charge of the Mining Control Unit of Santa Fe de Antioquia, said that the barequeros do not involve chemical elements and, in addition, represent a "cultural heritage" that they need to strengthen.
"The gold that is extracted is an ethical gold, without chemicals like mercury, but with an ancestral technique, they separate the metal with a little of the juice of cedar leaves and, in another circumstance, with a biodegradable soap," says Ceballos .
He indicated that a process of socio-economic characterization of the barequeros will be finalized soon, which will allow the formalization of at least 70 of them.
After advancing the legalization of the barequeros, the authorities of Santa Fe de Antioquia, which annually receives more than 50,000 visitors attracted by its colonial architecture, exotic fruits and summer resorts, plan to do the same in the other links of the production chain .
For this, Ceballos revealed that they will sign an agreement with the National University of Colombia and the "De la mano" foundation, which intends to continue with the strengthening of the gold activity, to demonstrate that the legal origin of the mineral is "a fact in the municipality" and find spaces for international commercialization, actions that are linked to the purpose of safeguarding it as heritage.