Charles Burgess, a former U.S. ambassador, has made an important contribution to transforming Colombia’s emerald industry, which has a reputation for violence and environmental damage. Burgess transformed the industry by bringing in mechanization, cutting-edge technology, and standard wages.
Former US diplomat Charles Burgess runs the Muzo Companies Colombia that mines and export 85% of Colombia’s emeralds. Most of the green gemstones are extracted from underground shafts that extend more than half a mile deep. The entrance to the mine allows heavy machinery to pull out rocks and debris instead of having miners push it all out in hand carts. The emerald industry used to be far more dangerous, with frequent explosions inside the mines and gun battles on the outside, but things have changed since Burgess and Houston-based investors bought Carranza’s mine in 2012. The mine is now mechanized, more modern, and peaceful, with regular salaries paid to workers transferred directly into their bank accounts.