The Republic of Suriname is actively working to leverage its mining industry to advance sustainable development, according to an assessment published by the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF.)
“We were pleased to see such a strong commitment to advancing positive change among the government officials we met with while in Suriname,” noted team lead Alec Crawford.
“These officials—as well as representatives from civil society and the private sector— recognize the urgent need to modernize Suriname’s legislative and regulatory structures across a range of key sectors, from mine closure to artisanal mining to environmental management.”
Suriname’s economy is dominated by natural resources: oil, gold and bauxite account for 90 per cent of exports and 30 per cent of GDP. The country is also the most heavily forested nation on the planet, with 95 of its land covered in trees. Informal small-scale mining, particularly in the interior, has emerged as a key environmental challenge; it is driving deforestation, mercury contamination and the pollution of inland waterways.
A currency crisis now underway as a result of a commodity price slump has rattled the economy and drastically reduced the resources available to undertake some reforms. With pressing needs and reduced revenues, the assessment team concluded that now might be an opportunity to ensure that a strong foundation is in place to build on once commodity prices recover.
“One of the main objectives of this government and this President is to help aid the transformation from natural wealth to sustainable development,” said Regilio Dodson, Suriname’s Minister of Natural Resources.
“Everything is driven by the legacy you want to leave.”
The ministry is working to update its mining laws, Dodson said. It is also working to improve transparency and the business environment in order to attract the right kind of investment.
The goal is to use the mining industry to help drive the development of other economic sectors and improve the lives of Surinamese citizens.
“This transformation is aimed at getting all the value you can get out of mining,” Dodson said. “We will be successful if we invest the revenues generated by mining in education and social services and ensure that the industry creates spinoffs which support the development of local businesses and other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.”
The assessment identifies three key priority areas for improvement: the legal and policy environment, the post-mining transition and mine closure, and artisanal and small-scale mining.
It recommends Suriname:
- Adopt the revised Mining Decree.
- Establish clear mine closure requirements, including for planning, financial assurance and a state-level, multistakeholder approach to managing abandoned mines.
- Improve formalization of the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, enforcing environmental and health protection and leveraging the subsector’s potential for positive economic and social impacts.
The IGF conducted the assessment—which involved an extensive review of key domestic and international laws and policies, and a five-day field visit to the country—at the request of the Surinamese government.
Suriname is a founding member of the IGF and a Surinamese representative, Glenn Gemerts, is the chair of the IGF’s executive committee.
The full report is available for download here.
The IGF supports nearly 60 nations committed to leveraging mining for sustainable development to ensure that negative impacts are limited and financial benefits are shared. It is devoted to optimizing the benefits of mining to achieve poverty reduction, inclusive growth, social development and environmental stewardship.
The International Institute for Sustainable Development has served as Secretariat for the IGF since October 2015. Core funding is provided by the Government of Canada.