Last year was not the best for emerald production in the country. It is a business tied directly to luck. As the miners find a vein, production is constant and the numbers are positive. In contrast, it can take months or even years to find such a deposit. These are the changes of nature.
It is a very different business from coal or other products where the amount of mineral in a deposit can be determined with great precision. In precious gems, the theme is random.According to Óscar Baquero, president of Fedesmeraldas, the guild of producers of this gem in the country, in 2018 cut gems were exported in the amount of $122 million US, 2% more than that reported in 2017.
The department of Boyacá, with 1,332 current mining titles, contributes 99% of the national production. Likewise, about 95% of local production ends up in international markets. To expand the business and the profitability of the activity, there are two options.
The first is to expand the number of mines and exploration. Something that is complicated these days due to changes in the rules of the game in tax matters and foreign investment.
Only Fura, of Canadian origin, is in the phase of new productions in Boyacá. It should not be forgotten that this company made it official at the beginning of 2018, the acquisition of 76% of the issued and outstanding shares of Esmeracol, holder of the contract in the Coscuez emerald mine (Boyacá).
The contract has been awarded for an initial period of 30 years, ending in December 2020, with the possibility of an extension of up to three additional decades. In this present time, this Boyacense mine is considered one of the three main producers of emeralds in Colombia, despite its lag in technology.
Another possibility is to increase the income of the sector through a greater component of added value. In this sense, the emerald guild maintains contacts with the government of President Iván Duque to create an industry around emerald jewelry. To date there are no major advances, but it could be a good way out.
Countries like India and China have managed to generate in recent years a whole prosperous industry with these type of products, which require specialized labor and state-ofthe-art technology for the manufacture and assembly of these pieces.
At this moment, according to Fedesmeraldas, Colombia is exporting emeralds to Asian countries: China, India, Hong Kong, but also the United States – which in fact has become an important distributor of emeralds in the world. These countries also consume the most emeralds per capita every year. It helps a lot that in terms of security things have improved compared to what happened in the 80s and 90s. Although a few years ago there were outbreaks of violence with new groups and clans that were emerging. “In the last 3 years things have been calmer,” says Baquero.