GROUND BREAKING

Colombia 2013 | ENERGY & MINING | B2B: MINING CHAMBERS

The potential of the local mining sector is coming into view as government support and private investment streams in.

Eduardo Alfonso Chaparro Ávila
EDUARDO ALFONSO CHAPARRO ÁVILA
Executive Director
Cámara Asomineros
Cesar E. Díaz Guerrero
CESAR E. DÍAZ GUERRERO
Executive Director
Cámara Colombiana de Minería

What is your assessment of the mining sector in Colombia and its future potential?

EDUARDO CHAPARRO Many people say that this isn't a mining country, but a country with mines. In my opinion, they are wrong, because for more than a millennium people in Colombia have been developing mining activities for various purposes and different targets, whether religious or military, or for the production of salt, coal, gold, copper, and semiprecious stones. From the 16th until the 19th century, the Spaniards were in Colombia looking for gold and silver. Gold was the principal metal used in ritual and political activities. At the beginning of the 20th century, Colombia was one of the biggest players in gold production in the entire world. However, as a result of the civil war at the beginning of the 20th century, the economic crisis led to very poor technical conditions for many economic activities. Furthermore, social conflict and military activity in many areas of Colombia stopped international interest in exploration for metals for many years. But at the same time, we established a new mining law, which is the current legislation. Colombia has, along with Venezuela, the greatest potential for metals and minerals in all of Latin America.

What segment of the mining industry holds the largest potential?

CESAR E. DÍAZ GUERRERO Colombia is a worldwide superpower in the coal segment. It is the fourth largest exporter and has the largest reserves of coal in the entire Latin American region. In addition, Colombia is one of the main producers and exporters of emeralds in the world, where there are plenty of opportunities for investors, and produces one of the highest quality emeralds known. In the gold segment, Colombia used to be among the top three producers and exporters in the world many years ago, but today we are not even in the top 10. However, I believe that if the right investments are made and the right measures are taken, the country can get back to the old days. In addition to all that, the country holds extensive reserves of copper, platinum, nickel, and other minerals that have yet to be explored and exploited. At the same time, Colombia has huge potential in other mineral segments.

What are your expectations for coal production this year?

EC Our highest production is in coal, and we will probably reach 90 million tons this year. The legal production limit for gold is 12 tons. We are one of the four producers of ferronickel in the Americas. Colombia produces more than 300 million cubic meters of sandstone for civil works. And obviously, parallel to this are raw industrial materials such as cement. We have investments in Ecuador, Venezuela, Central America, the US, and Mexico. At the same time, Mexican investment in the cement sector is targeted towards Colombia.

What measures need to be implemented at the governmental level to further develop the sector?

CDG The sector needs a clearer regulatory framework, as well as a longer-term vision, because investments in the mining industry are always made with the future 20 years in mind. In addition, much pedagogic work needs to be done at the national level in order to explain to Colombian citizens the new mining industry, the use of advanced technologies, its compromise with the environment, and so on. This is because many people still link today's mining industry with old methods. Such a step would positively contribute to achieving greater social acceptance. I believe that these three elements are key for the further development of the industry, and I would like to stress the importance of such strategies at all the levels, both state and private. In this regard, the government of Colombia is to implement, by the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, a new mining code that will set the pace and the scene for the development of the sector.