Colombia going for gold! | Daily News

Colombia going for gold!

Gold figurines were given as gift to the God
Gold figurines were given as gift to the God

Sri Lanka, like Colombia is a land full of treasure as the recent Serendipity Sapphire cluster worth over a hundred million proves, in its accidental discovery while digging a well in a home garden in Ratnapura. I am inspired by this exciting find and talk to Andy Rendle a modern day explorer and gem and gold miner in Colombia about how ancient stories are the clues to finding the world’s greatest treasures.

Imagine dusting yourself in flecks of gold and throwing away golden statues into a sacred lake, as offerings to appease the gods, and then imagine a world where every day is a fight for survival. Colombia’s First Nation chief, being worldly wise, realised he had to appease the planet’s demons and cleanse their evil by pouring gold dust all over himself and then rowing out on a raft into the centre of a lake, likely created by an asteroid that struck the Earth. Here, with his shaman medicine men masked in gold, he would hurl gold artefacts into the lake, in a shower of golden prayers, and afterwards, cleanse himself by washing off the gold dust in a devotee ritual that, over the centuries, became legendary among explorers. Some say this mysterious lake was actually a salt deposit washed out, creating a sink hole, into which much of the gold vanished, returning back to where it came, from Mother Earth.

This wildly beautiful lake deeply fascinated Andy, a mining expert who is a partner in a business called Cosigo, and who, as a teenager, would jump into the lake with his friends, hoping they would find some of these artefacts designed into masterpieces of gold filigree and encrusted in Colombian emeralds, some of which can be seen in the Bogota museum. In the 1500s, the Spaniards had also tried to find this fabled spot, full of gold, by following the indigenous people to North Bogota, but they would always lose them along the way. Hence, the many legendary stories about the quest for El Dorado’s gold and perhaps an understanding today that finding the gold is not the real quest, but what you do with it when you find it.

Until the turn of the millennium, you could be quite forgiven for regarding Colombia as the modern day’s Heart of Darkness, topping even the Congo’s history for assassinations, bombings, torture, corruption, and general hideousness on a grand scale. Pablo Escobar was just the tip of the iceberg, as it takes a long trail of corruption, and many complicit people, to allow such a character to flourish.

But, with the turn of the millennium, like a mother giving birth to a child, the country began to clean up its act - not a five minute job and has taken the best part of a couple of decades to bring it to a point of peace whereby it is back on the map for tourism and, most importantly of all, gold exploration, global investment and the many opportunities that come from mining. One must ask how such places of great beauty and mineral richness, like the Congo, Colombia and Sri Lanka, have been the centre points for such long term, large scale difficulties. Is it really as simple as their richness attracting the wrong people or corrupting the right people, or ensnaring the right people in the wrong place at the wrong time using their one weakness? Maybe all three, but when countries such as these become sickened and tired of violence and greed, there must come a time of great peace brought about by people with impeccable integrity and drive, and a community prepared to support and be fully involved in wholesome initiatives with heart and soul.

Andy, having grown up in Colombia as a missionary’s son, not only speaks the language fluently, but also wants to be the change, in the country he loves as dearly as his own family. For him Colombia is the gold corridor from Cartagena, where Drake the buccaneer pirate made his fortune from his skirmishes with the Conquistadores who got the gold from the stream of flowing gold nuggets, both of whose presence you can still feel when walking the streets. Hundreds of years later, in 1905, Colombia mapped out gold going down the rivers to the Pacific Ocean. However, they didn’t explore far into the region as malaria was rife. In the 1940s, coffee made Colombia wealthy until the 1960s, facilitating the advance of their aviation and engineering skills. However, when they made marijuana their staple crop, it precipitated the beginning of the end. The United Nations wanted Colombia to diversify and drill for minerals and the Japanese government wanted to develop the industrial mineral wealth, but these hopes were dashed by the 1998 guerrilla war. Andy says, with a pained look on his face, that living in Colombia from 1998 to 2003 was like enduring a long pandemic, as the country essentially shut down completely.

Although Colombia’s past, like most of America, is founded on the skullduggery of European colonists and some terrible treatment of native first nation peoples, these countries’ rulers were not necessarily so pure in the first place, as there is much evidence of pyramidal structures, both physical and in the systems of politics and powerful elites before the arrival of the Europeans.

Nonetheless, the past must be acknowledged and accepted and the oppression of and desire to control people by those in power must cease, for mankind to put things in order for a new way of things to flourish for all people, whatever their colour, race, creed, standing or capabilities. Colombia has what it takes to build on the positive aspects of its culture, which has been described as a very rich mixture of Spanish, Indigenous and African cultures, which is to be found in film festivals at Cartagena and the enormous Bogota International Book Fair. Its recent history has also taught the people to be racially tolerant and friendly to visitors and business, as the best antidote to former cycles of violence. Hence, Ameca’s interest in partnering with Cosigo, as they believe that although gold has hitherto caused so many wars, it can in fact be used for enormous good.

Andy, tired of seeing charitable funding going up and down for his parents’ work in prisons rehabilitating criminals and the over reliance on missionary donations to make a difference in Colombia, decided to pursue a career in staking out areas for gold, to help do good for the country by having real resources to make a difference. Andy explains, “This is not easy, as people think ‘Mining destroys everything.’ This is not helped by Colombia’s Ministry of Environment releasing negative news media that bears no resemblance to the objective of wanting to protect the flowers, birds and animals. At Cosigo we do not want to destroy places, but create wealth that would give the country choices, like Canada has done. Mining, if done in the right way, is an example of how one can bring lots of people out of poverty, which in turn helps the environment, since, out of desperation, the poor kill wild animals like the jaguar, to eat and sell their skins for income. If gold can elevate the country, then the animals will be left alone to flourish, creating wildlife tourism potential.

Colombia, in recent times, has shown its immense potential, with the likes of Rafael Escalona, a most prominent troubadour and Vallenato composer and Clara Guerrero winner of the Women’s World Bowling Championship, World Ranking Masters. Its wildlife and natural beauty are beyond words and even boasts finding the fossils of the largest snake ever to have lived, the TitanoBoa, weighing in at well over a ton and spanning nearly twelve metres. Just over ten years ago the government enacted a mandate to introduce E85 flexible-fuel vehicles, signalling its commitment to sustainability and the environment.

The people are very creative in the way they mine, as small prospectors, and in all aspects of the arts and science, including dance - Colombian carnivals are a wonderful display of this rich culture; very joyful and interesting for participants and bystanders alike, merging catholic values with ancient cultural traditions that are rooted in ancient tribal wisdom. The country also sits upon enormous mineral wealth, which if tapped sustainably and with the aim of bringing wealth to the nation as a whole, at its heart, then Colombia, with the help of Cosigo and Ameca, will be a great one to watch in the future. So, why not invest now, so the jaguars, the jungle’s golden eye cats, will be here for our children and grandchildren to learn from and enjoy the beauty and majesty they display, as they gracefully move through the undergrowth, by being part of the mind set that is changing mining methods to be eco-friendly.

Andy also wants to mine for precious stones, as where the mountains produce the best coffee, there is something even more special - Colombian moss green (or jungle green) emeralds. Cleopatra adorned her body in them, giving her even more status and power, I learn from our lively interviewer. He finds it amusing that people think his job in the jungle or up a mountain is dangerous; searching for gold, even being chased by a super pack of 200 wild boars is nothing compared to the risks his wife takes, as an emerald expert going around the jewellery shops in New York City and Los Angeles, where the emerald trained gang of thieves ruthlessly operate, having broken away from the cartel, and think nothing of holding someone up at gun point. Ultimately, greed is never good, as the world is now discovering over a year into the pandemic and as 99 per cent of Colombians are very good people, who don’t want their children turned into child soldiers, there is infinite potential for this beautiful country.

Many of the churches wants to help Colombia find a better way, as they have experienced the horror of what going to the furtherest extremes of wickedness does for humankind. “Today, with the internet, and a new global outlook”, Andy relates, “the majority want to find better ways to do things, and many of us in Cosigo, who trust God’s Wisdom, can also lead us down the right path to do good in the world, and, from worldly goodness, nature will flourish, along with humanity.”

Many people believe including my local fortune teller that over the next 18 months this is also going to be Sri Lanka’s time to rise up and flourish after decades of challenges and who knows maybe the Serendipity Sapphire is just the start of lots of amazing discoveries, that will put this magical island back where it belongs as a world centre of excellence in the centre of the world. So if we do go into another lockdown, my advice is to get digging in your own back garden and who knows what amazing things you will find!

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