Let’s assume you are a Finance Minister or ministry official of a country that has newly discovered oil or minerals.
What actions lay ahead? Or, if oil and mineral production is ongoing, , which is a mainstay for national economies around the world?
Planning for the development of an unfamiliar and complex sector can be daunting. How should sector policy objectives be determined?
Which economic, accounting and taxation principles should be considered? What kinds of laws and regulations would a government need to adopt? What roles do various ministries and government agencies play in administering these laws? How do technical, environmental and social considerations fit into the scheme of things? What about the investment of resource revenues, or the potential for new industry linkages?
I recently joined over 150 women who work in the mining sector of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at a conference sponsored by the World Bank. This was the first national conference ever held in the DRC to discuss women-specific issues in the sector and what can be done to improve their well-being.
Many topics were discussed over the course of the three days. Some of the most compelling came from the personal testimonies shared by the women themselves. For instance, to generate understanding of the challenges these women face, a video showed girls as young as 12 years of age pounding quartz to extract gold. A woman may gain up to 2,000 Congolese Francs per day for this work, which is about US $2. Many women at the conference showed callouses on their hands from continuous years of arduous labor. This is but one example of the impacts suffered from the most physically taxing jobs occupied by women in the artisanal and small-scale mining sub-sector.
Luck has struck the region of East Africa: for a couple of years now, new announcements of natural resource discoveries are being made every few months. Mozambique has found some of the largest natural gas deposits in the world, while Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya have also discovered gas and oil. Exploration is still ongoing, so even more discoveries could be forthcoming. Luck has definitely struck the region, but the main question is: how will the people in these countries benefit from this?
The last few years have brought an uptick in the number of mining investments that have been the subject of disputes between investors and governments. This trend is of considerable concern to the players in the sector across the globe.
Yet, there is a wealth of wisdom to be—pardon the pun—mined from the literature over the past few decades in an attempt to distill what the main risk factors are in agreements that govern investments in the sector, with specific focus on taxation regimes.
Number of Expropriatory Acts by Sector – three-year rolling averages
Source: Chris Hajzler (2010), “Expropriation of Foreign Direct Investments: Sectoral Patterns from 1993 to 2006,” University of Otago in MIGA,World Investment and Political Risk 2011
If I had to pick one critical source of exports and a key driver of economic growth for Armenia, I would pick mining.
But mining is a risky business and is fraught with hurdles. Exploration often comes up empty. Investments are very large, in excess of hundreds of millions dollars. Commodity prices can change dramatically and governments can change policies and taxes. Moreover, there can be large environmental and social risks associated with things like tailings, dams, and resettlement policies.
A risky business does not, however, mean that mining is or should be an irresponsible business. Many of these risks can be mitigated or eliminated. This requires proper policies, laws, regulations, careful implementation, and planning for life when the mine closes – all of this even before the mine opens. Supporting policies, such as easy access to updated geological information and predictability in transferring licenses, reduce the risk in exploration.
Mining is a high stakes industry. For the growing list of countries looking to translate underground assets into tangible benefits above the ground, the ability to negotiate and implement a good deal is critical. However, capacities to do so are often weak. A handy resource is now available to help countries. And it’s free!
I am a mining specialist, not a conflict specialist. But on my recent trip to Sierra Leone, I was struck by the ever-present need to look at extractive industries through the lens of conflict prevention. The devastating 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, in large part fueled by local alluvial diamond mining, is impossible to separate from future mining development. With over 50,000 deaths due to the civil war, we cannot ignore the link between conflict and mining.
Film is a powerful tool for explaining environmental issues. I first learnt this lesson while trying to enlist local communities in northern Vietnam to help protect a strange blue faced and critically endangered primate called the Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey. After a morning spent bombarding local leaders with facts and figures, they were polite but unmoved.