There is little doubt that Suriname’s economy is dominated by the extractives industry, with oil and gold accounting for more than 80% of exports and 27% of government revenues (EITI). The country was formerly a major bauxite producer – with bauxite the primary mineral export prior to 2008 when gold took over (IGF). In fact, the bauxite industry in Suriname dates back to 1916 and experienced major booms through the First and Second Word Wars. The main bauxite reserves were, however, largely depleted by 2012; though there has been some discussion about reinvigorating the bauxite industry, the investment required to locate new deposits in more remote areas and therefore deal with infrastructure, transport and water issues has not been forthcoming from the private sector and is seen to be too high risk for the government to pursue alone. Suriname is also believed to have small deposits of nickel, copper, iron ore and diamonds, though none of these minerals are currently being mined. Artisanal gold mining has been known to account for more than half of the country’s gold production (IGF) and is a major source of employment in Suriname.
As with most countries where the economy is overly reliant on its natural resource industries, changing commodity prices can cause major economic impacts in Suriname. The fall of global commodity prices in 2014 and subsequent closure of various bauxite mines and associated infrastructure (processing plants, refineries etc.) contributed heavily to the devaluation of Suriname’s currency – causing economic problems as recession hit the country. Though it seems clear that economic diversification is required, numerous Surinamese governments have failed to adequately handle this task. Besides the issues faced by Suriname from an economic viewpoint, other mining related challenges arise mainly from the artisanal sector, with deforestation, mercury contamination and water pollution amongst major environmental issues.
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