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World-renowned emerald hunter killed during NC mine collapse

Posted at 1:06 PM, Sep 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-19 13:06:12-04

ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. — A mining accident has claimed the life of a man famous for mining for gems in the mountains of North Carolina.

Terry Ledford, who is credited with finding the largest emerald ever discovered in North America,  was killed hunting for the precious stones during a mine collapse Wednesday in Alexander County.

Forty firefighters and rescue workers worked to remove the fallen dirt from the hole, which was about 60-feet wide and 30-feet deep, according to WSOC.

Ledford’s body was discovered about four-feet down.

Terry Ledford (SOURCE: WSOC)

Geologist Ed Speer believes Ledford was probably using a machine to dig up hiddenite — a rare, bright green gem — when disaster struck.

“Occasionally he would get off the machine and go look and see what he had just uncovered, and that’s probably the moment when it collapsed,” Speer told WLOS. “If he had known that it was about to collapse, I’m sure he would never have gotten close to it.”


Speer said he talked with Ledford only a few hours before his death on Wednesday.

The two were planning a book about the miner’s collection. That book could now become his legacy.