Experts in maritime consider the San Jose wreck to be the "holy-grail" Spanish colonial shipwrecks.
The wreck of the San Jose galleon has been a long-cherished dream of treasure hunters around the world. It was discovered off Columbia's coast in 2015. However, it is now being protected as the government sets rules for its recovery.
Colombia was an colony of Spain at the time the San Jose was sink. Gold from South America, including modern Peru and Bolivia was kept in the Cartagena fort before being shipped to Europe.
A presidential decree issued Thursday said that anyone who wants to excavate the ship must sign a contract with the state, submit an inventory of their findings to the government, and also provide plans for how they will handle the goods.
In a statement, Marta Lucia Ramirez, vice president and top diplomat, stated that the uber-loot will be a source of pride for Colombia. Experts estimate it to contain at least 200 tonnes of gold, silver, and emeralds. If ever found, the treasure could be worth billions.
She stated that the wealth is incalculable and that the responsibility of the proteges was already taken, which contributed to the history of Colombia and the Caribbean as well as the world.
The San Jose galleon, long a dream of treasure hunters around the world, was sink by the British Navy off Cartagena de Indias on the night of 6/7/1708.
At the time, the San Jose carried gold, silver, and precious stones that were to be delivered from Latin America's Spanish colonies to King Philip V.
Only a handful of the 600-strong crew from San Jose survived the disaster.
It makes it extremely delicate because one isn't supposed to interfere in war graves," Justin Leidwanger (an archaeologist at Stanford University, who studies ancient shipwrecks), told Live Science in 2015. Can you plunder treasure from the seabed without disturbing war graves? I doubt you can. These are the kind of discussions that will be held.
Juan Manuel Santos, the then-President of Colombia, announced at the end 2015 that he had found the wreck's exact location. This was confirmed by the unique bronze cannons on the ship with dolphin engravings.
Colombia estimates that it will cost $70 million to complete a salvage operation on the wreckage at a depth between 2,000 and 3200 feet.
Spain claims the wreck belongs to it as a ship-of-state; however, a Bolivian indigenous group, the Qhara Qhara says that the treasure belonged to them since their ancestors were forced by the Qhara Qhara to extract it from the largest silver mine in the world, which was established in 1500.