North Carolina’s Emerald Man Hits Pay Dirt Again

Almost three years ago, James King Hill found emeralds on his North Carolina property using a backhoe, pick, and shovel. (See “Colombian-Quality Emeralds Found in the United States,” JCK, April 1999, p. 15.) He struck pay dirt again in January when he found two more large emerald crystals, this time using high-tech radar imaging equipment.

“The two exposed crystals are very large [the exposed areas are about 25 cts. and 100-plus cts.], with intensely rich color—real glow-in-the-dark green,” says Antoinette Matlins, gem expert and author of Colored Gemstones: The Antoinette Matlins Buying Guide.

Hill made the discovery using “high-tech subterranean radar imaging,” Matlins says. The technology allows Hill to see geophysical plotting of potential emerald pockets. The plotting of one small section of the mine site revealed more than 30 potential pockets. “Using the plotting as a guide, they proceeded to open one pocket,” says Matlins. Hill found two fine, large emerald crystals right at the opening. The pocket is mapped at 12 feet long and was 12 feet directly beneath where Hill had parked his backhoe two years ago when the North Carolina government ordered him to stop digging.

“Mining activity was suspended by the state of North Carolina when James began to expand his mine, and the status of his site was changed from ‘prospecting’ to ‘commercial mining,’ ” explains Matlins. To win the state’s approval to operate an emerald mine, Hill has filled out regulatory paperwork, paid the required fees, obtained the permits, and prepared the site to meet ecological requirements. The paperwork was completed and the permits granted in January, and Hill has been mining since then using the new equipment.