TRUE VALUE

Colombia 2020 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

Given that Colombia produces the bulk of the world's high-quality emeralds, MTC seeks to increase its production to meet global demand.

Charles Clifford Burgess
BIOGRAPHY

Charles Clifford Burgess is the CEO of MTC and the Muzo Companies in Colombia. Burgess graduated from the University of Florida in history and political sciences and also holds a master's in public administration. After three years of military service as an officer with the US Marine Corps, he started working for the US Department of State as a diplomat. He worked with the US Foreign Service for over 30 years in Paraguay, Ecuador, Cuba, and Colombia, where he worked for two terms. In 2009, he retired from the diplomatic service and founded MTC.

How was the production environment in 2019?
The production environment remained steady in 2019. We are involved in some major infrastructure projects in the mining sector and are extremely satisfied with production. Clearly, everyone would like more production, and we have plans for that, though we are moving into new areas and expanding some of the ramps. We expect some new infrastructure to significantly boost production in 2020. Additionally, we plan to work on ramps and other areas of the mine that are not currently active. We have every reason to believe production will increase as it has done in the past few years.

What is the status of your jewelry line and other projects?
We want to work with the Colombian emerald industry as a whole and support our partners. The emerald mining sector produces high-quality emeralds, commercial-quality emeralds, and other emerald materials. Overall, there is a great demand for the whole line of emeralds.

Why did you select Geneva and New York as your major distribution centers?
New York is one of centers for the gem trade, as is Geneva. We have worked with agents, sellers, and buyers in other parts of the world in Asia and the Middle East, but New York and Geneva are excellent places as centers of distribution.

Are there other markets you would like to target?
We would like to be in all the major markets of the world, whether it is the Middle East, China, Europe, the US, or South America. Our sales staff are constantly looking for new opportunities. We have no problem selling our product; we concentrate on production and quality. Emeralds, especially high-quality emeralds, are rarer than diamonds. This is one of the reasons the price has continued to rise. Colombia produces the bulk of the world's high-quality emeralds.

How are you aligned with the government's agreement to export a percentage of emeralds to the Chinese market?
These agreements were recently signed. We are in contact with Acodes, part of Federales Esmeraldas, and it helped negotiate these agreements with the Chinese government. The issue was that there were extremely high taxes on importing emeralds from Colombia into China, as well as other obstacles. Acodes is working on removing those obstacles to make the flow of Colombian emeralds to the Chinese market easier. We support those efforts but are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. We eventually intend to be full participants.

How do you plan to bring the relevant stakeholders together to achieve Colombia's goal of being the top emerald exporter by 2025?
We have had tremendous support from the government. This industry can grow significantly and can dominate the global industry. What we need is capital investment, either Colombian or foreign. We need the government to adopt policies that will favor the industry. We have to go out and make sure the world knows the value of Colombian emeralds. We know we have the best product. When the industry has matured and is producing at the level it should, there will be no question that people will want Colombian emeralds.

How are technology and innovation changing production?
To find more emeralds, one needs to expand mines and go deeper. To operate a mine in a modern fashion in accordance with the law, they need technology. To operate the mine efficiently, they need geological information. There are many different things that come together to make the mine more efficient. Our goals are mainly about modernization and expansion of the mine. Notably, due to our overall standards, we were ranked one of the top-10 mining companies in Colombia by Brújula Minera. It was the first-time ever an emerald mining company was included in this ranking. We were also rated fifth in terms of how we treat our workers.