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Legal Risk Rating
Score: 30
Critical Risk
The success (or failure) of a project or investment in Suriname will not hinge on the application of the Mining Decree; rather the potential returns will be determined by the terms of the Mineral Agreement negotiated with the State. A successful Mineral Agreement must circumvent the multiple issues of the Mining Decree to mitigate against the high level of risk which companies and investors are exposed to under the current legal framework. A solid and seasoned negotiating team is a must!

Regulatory Corruption Risk

Extremely High Corruption Potential

Corruption Exposure Risk

Moderate Corruption Risk

Legal Risk Rating

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Mining Overview Commentary plus sign



Suriname, officially the Republic of Suriname, is located in South America on the north-eastern coast of the continent. The country is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Brazil to the south and Guyana to the west. Suriname is a former colony of the Netherlands; following Spanish and English exploration and settlement it became a Dutch colony in 1667 and remained so until independence was achieved in 1975. From 1975 to 1991 a period of political unrest ensued with a military coup in 1980 and numerous ‘counter-coups’. In 1986, a civil war broke out in Suriname. In 2010, the former dictator Desire Bouterse was elected to power and was subsequently re-elected in 2015.

Suriname is a mineral rich country and the economy is heavily reliant on natural resources, with the mineral and energy sectors contributing around 30% of Suriname’s GDP (World Bank). The country is one of the world’s top ten bauxite producers. Alumina, oil and gold are the primary mineral exports; in fact collectively these resources account for 85% of all exports and 27% of government revenue (CIA Factbook). Agriculture is also a key industry, with rice, shrimp, fish and bananas amongst main exports. The USA is the country’s largest consumer. Unsurprisingly Suriname’s economy is greatly influenced by changes in commodity prices; as a result the government, with support of the World Bank, has begun to develop plans to diversify the economy.

Suriname is not included in the latest Fraser Institute PPI (2016). 


Suriname’s mining industry is primarily regulated by the Mining Decree 1986 (Mining Decree), which was last amended in 1997. That said, exploitation and exploration rights may also be negotiated with the government in the form of Mineral Agreements, which are approved and enacted as law by the National Assembly. The country does not have any developed environmental legislation applicable to the industry, though the guidelines published by NIMOS provide helpful insight into the environmental assessment requirements applicable to projects. A draft mining law and draft environmental legislation has been released, though progress with promulgation is proving slow.

Pursuant to Article 2 of the Mining Decree all minerals in and on the ground are considered as separate property from the land, with the State possessing sovereign rights over the country’s natural resources. The mining industry in Suriname is overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources (Ministry). Pursuant to the Mining Decree, the Minister of Natural Resources (Minister) is responsible for developing policies to govern the industry (Art. 3, Mining Decree). The Minister is responsible for granting mining rights under the Mining Decree (Art. 9, Mining Decree), though as noted above Mineral Agreements are to be negotiated with the Minister and the Suriname government and must be approved and enacted by the National Assembly (De Nationale Assemblée (DNA)).


Applicants for mining rights in Suriname must be a resident of the country or, in the case of a corporation have an established office in Suriname (Art. 8, Mining Decree). All applications for rights granted under the Mining Decree must be made in conformity with Article 10. Rights may only be granted if the applicant proves to the satisfaction of the Minsiter their financial position, technical capacity, organisational capability and experience with regard to the mineral(s) for which mining rights are requested (Art. 9, Mining Decree).


  • Reconnaissance Licence: Grants the holder the exclusive right to carry out reconnaissance activities in or on the terrain for the mineral(s) for which the rights have been granted (Art. 23(1), Mining Decree). Rights are granted for a period of no more than two years, which can be extended once for a further one-year period (Art. 22(1), Mining Decree). Rights are granted for an area not greater than 200,000 hectares (Art. 22(2), Mining Decree). Rights holders are obligated to carry out reconnaissance activities according to the agreed work program and time schedule; to inform the Minister about discovery of mineral indications within 30 days; submit quarterly reports; and present annual reports of scientific and technical results, amongst other things (Art. 24, Mining Decree). Rights are non-transferable (Art. 11(1), Mining Decree).


  • Exploration Licence: Grants the holder the exclusive right to carry out exploration activities in the area for the mineral(s) for which exploration rights are granted (Art. 28(1), Mining Decree; see also Art. 28(2), Mining Decree). Where the applicant is the holder of reconnaissance rights, the Minister will take steps to arrive at an agreement with the applicant in a short period of time (Art. 26, Mining Decree). Applications must: specify the mineral(s) for which the application is made; include a general work program as well as a detailed work program relating to the first 12 months of exploration which includes information on time schedules, costs, personnel and materials; and include a statement in which the applicant commits to spending a certain minimum sum, with proof of a bank deposit or guarantee where requested by the Minister (see Art. 25, Mining Decree). Rights are granted for a period of no more than three years, with two further extensions, each of two years possible, providing the holder has carried out activities to the satisfaction of the Minister in accordance with the agreed program and met the expenditure requirements (Art. 27(1), Mining Decree). Rights are granted for an area no larger than 40,000 hectares; 25% of the area must be relinquished upon renewal (Art. 27(2), Mining Decree). Applicants for exploration rights may choose to negotiate a Mineral Agreement with the Minister to establish the terms applicable to exploration (Art. 27(4), Mining Decree). Rights holders are obligated to: begin exploration activities within three months and to continue activities without interruption of more than four months, unless the Minister approves otherwise; carry out exploration activities in compliance with the agreed work program and consult annually on a detailed program for the following year; inform the Minister about each finding of minerals within 30 days; meet the minimum expenditure requirements; maintain technical lists; refrain from commercial production; submit quarterly reports and annual reports on scientific and technical details; and pay the relevant fees, amongst other things (Art. 29, Mining Decree). Exploration licences may be transferred, in whole or in part, providing the written consent of the Minister is obtained and the transferee meets the application requirements (Art. 11(2), Mining Decree).


  • Exploitation Licence: Grants the holder the exclusive right to exploit mineral(s) for which the right has been granted (Art. 34(1), Mining Decree; see also Art 34(2), Mining Decree). Where the applicant is the holder of exploration rights who has discovered a mineral deposit of possible commercial value and has fulfilled all other obligations, the Minister will take steps to come to an agreement with the applicant in a short period of time (Art. 31(1), Mining Decree). Applications must be made no later than six months before the termination of exploration rights (Art. 30(1), Mining Decree). In practice exploitation rights are granted via Mineral Agreements, which are negotiated with the Minister and government and subsequently enacted as law by the DNA. Applications must: state the mineral(s) to be mined; provide details of the mineral deposit with extensive reports on reserves and a technological report; contain a program of exploitation activities with a timeline; detail the production capacity to be installed and estimated total proceeds from the deposit; provide a prediction of capital to be invested and details of exploitation costs, sale proceeds and the intended method of financing; provide a plan for the training and transfer of know-how to Surinamese; and include a plan for activities relating to making the mined land usable again (Art. 30(2), Mining Decree). Exploitation rights are granted for a period of no more than 25 years and can be extended pursuant to the terms of the Mineral Agreement (Art. 33(1), Mining Decree). The rights are granted for an area no greater than 10,000 hectares (Art. 33(2), Mining Decree). Rights holders are obligated to: promptly start exploitation activities and continue without interruption unless the Minister approves otherwise; provide annual reports on the quantities of production and export for the year, as well details of imported goods, estimated export values, levies to be paid and sum of money to be financed; keep accurate lists of technical and financial data; report annually on reserves; submit quarterly technical reports; submit annual reports with details of investment, export, employment etc.; and pay the relevant fees (Art. 35, Mining Decree). Exploitation licences may be transferred, in whole or in part, providing the written consent of the Minister is obtained and the transferee meets the application requirements (Art. 11(2)-(4), Mining Decree).  


The Mining Decree also provides for small-scale mining rights and rights for the exploration and exploitation of building materials (see Ch. VII & VIII, Mining Decree).


The State has the option to participate in exploitation (Art. 32(1), Mining Decree). The specific terms of this participation will be negotiated and specified under the Mineral Agreement granting exploitation rights. Annual land fees must be paid in accordance with Article 63. Royalties will also be owed to the State; rates are to be determined by State Decree as well as payment terms, though again in practice these terms will form part of the Mineral Agreement.

In relation to surface rights, mining rights holders must give advance notice to land rights holders prior to starting activities. Compensation, based on damages and the value of the land, must be agreed between the relevant parties. Where agreement cannot be reached an application for a judicial determination may be made. Land rights holders may also request land be purchased where occupation is for more than seven years or the damage caused leaves the land unfit for purpose. The factors to be considered in the determination of compensation by the judiciary are provided. Where land rights holders refuse to allow access following the payment of compensation the State may intervene. (See Mining Decree, Ch. IX, Rights of Third Party).

The Mining Decree also includes general obligations including that all mining activities be conducted in the most efficient way, taking into account the higher interests of the nation and keeping in mind most modern international techniques, health and safety and the community in general, as well as the norms for protection of ecological systems (Art. 4(1), Mining Decree) and the requirement to give preference to Surinamese goods and services (though notably only if conditions relating to price, quality etc. are favourable) (Art. 4(2), Mining Decree). 


See Suriname- Environmental Regulation.

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Environmental Overview Commentary plus sign



Suriname, officially the Republic of Suriname, is located on the north-eastern coast of South America, bordering French Guiana to the east, Brazil to the south and Guyana to the west, with its northern coastline bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. In spite of the fact that Suriname is one of South America’s smallest countries in terms of population (around 550,000) and area (163,270 km²) it is incredibly diverse and culturally rich.

Suriname’s land is primarily occupied by tropical rain forest, with the remaining terrain a combination of rolling hills and narrow coastal plains with swampland that covers over 17,000km2 of Suriname’s area. Suriname has a tropical climate, with hot and often wet weather year round. High levels of humidity and temperatures in the high 20’s are typical. Due to the high levels of rainfall, the majority of the year is classed as wet season in Suriname, only the periods of February to April and August to November are considered to be dry season in the region.

The country is located on the Guiana Shield, which has some of the highest biodiversity in the world. Suriname’s flora includes over 4,000 species of ferns and seed plants and over 1,000 tree species. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is one of the world’s largest areas of protected rainforest; the reserve has held UNESCO World Heritage Site status since 2000. The country’s national flower is the Faya Lobi. In terms of fauna, Suriname is home to over 180 species of mammals, over 700 species of bird, 170 species of reptiles and over 350 species of fish. Notable animals include sloths, tapir, armadillo and anteaters. The country’s beaches are nesting grounds for numerous turtle species including leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles and these areas are protected by law.

Current environmental challenges faced by Suriname include deforestation and water pollution, which often arises as a result of illegal, small-scale mining activities. Agricultural and natural resource developments pose an increasing threat to the country’s vast variety of flora and fauna.


The Constitution of Suriname contains social responsibilities under Article 6, one of which is the objective to identify the potential for development of the natural environment and the augmentation of the capacity to increasingly expand that potential (Art. 6(a), Constitution of the Republic of Suriname). The Mining Decree also requires that mining rights holders have due regard to the norms for the protection of ecological systems (Art. 4(1), Mining Decree). However, Suriname is yet to develop a formal framework of environmental legislation. Whilst important steps have been made in this regard over the last 20 years, progress is slow. Most recently, a draft environmental bill has been released, though it has not yet been adopted.

The National Environmental Council (Nationale Milieu Raad (NMR)) was established in 1997 by Presidential Decree to act as an advisory body to the Government on environmental matters and policy. In 1998 the National Institute for Environment and Development in Suriname (Nationaal Instituut voor Milieu en Ontwikkeling in Suriname (NIMOS)) was also established and tasked with initiating the development of a national legal and institutional framework for environmental policy and management. NIMOS is an independent branch of the NMR and sits within the Office of the President. In the absence of specific environmental legislation NIMOS has published and subsequently updated various environmental guidelines, specifically relating to the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) process. Currently these guidelines, alongside the draft legislation and the various international standards, form the basis of the ESIA process in Suriname. NIMOS is currently responsible for the administration of this process. 


It is not legally mandatory for mining operators to perform an ESIA for mining projects, however it is becoming common practice in the region and in time we anticipate that the process will soon be formalised. As it stands several international mining companies with operations in the country have worked with NIMOS to conduct ESIA according to the guidelines and various international standards and it is likely that this is, in practice, now a requirement for mining projects in the region. Exploration projects are unlikely to require an ESIA under the current NIMOS guidelines.

The NIMOS guidelines breakdown projects into three categories. Category A projects are those which require an ESIA as mandatory; exploitation projects for metallic minerals for an area over 10,000 hectares fall into this category as do non-metallic exploitation projects in an area over 20 hectares. Category B projects are those which may require an ESIA or another type of environmental permit or document, NIMOS will assess such projects on the basis of environmental information provided by the proponent and determine the need for an ESIA; exploitation projects for metallic minerals in an area up to 10,000 hectares fall into this category as do non-metallic exploitation projects in an area up to 20 hectares. Category C projects are those which do not require an ESIA.

The ESIA process itself is broken down into the following phases:

  • Screening Phase: The screening phase shall determine which category a project falls into. This will not be necessary for those projects which are already categorised (see above). Information on the project will be sent to NIMOS via the relevant permitting agency – in the case of mining activities the Ministry for Natural Resources (Ministry). A non-technical summary of the project and its alternatives must be provided, alongside additional information including details of the possible impacts on the environment. Applications will be screened according to NIMOS guidelines. Projects falling into Category B may be subject to additional assessment to determine adverse impacts and their relative complexity. During this phase NIMOS will determine whether a full ESIA or a less stringent form of environmental review is required. NIMOS will provide advice to the Ministry within 14 days. Where an ESIA is required the applicant must, within 7 days (or 60 days where an appeal of NIMOS’ decision has been made), publish or announce notification of intent to conduct the ESIA in the media. Applicants have the option to apply for exemption in certain pre-defined circumstances. For Category B projects that are deemed not to require an ESIA, NIMOS will publish notice of such decision in the media and the public will have a right of appeal against such decisions. The Ministry may issue a licence following NIMOS’ decision if an ESIA is not required.


  • Scoping Phase: During this phase the terms of reference (TOR) for the ESIA shall be prepared and details on the preparation of these TOR and the scoping phase of the ESIA are provided by NIMOS. The notice of intent published by the applicant shall, where required, be accompanied by announcements for public consultation. This is a key factor to the ESIA process and public consultation will be a key aspect of the scoping and reviewing phases of the project. TOR must be submitted to NIMOS and NIMOS may choose to work with qualified experts in this regard. Recommended TOR for Category A projects are outlined by NIMOS in the guidelines. After assessment of the TOR, NIMOS will issue project specific guidelines for preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).


  • Assessment Phase: During this phase the applicant is required to assess both the environmental and social impacts, positive as well as negative and the significance of such impacts and prepare the EIS. Assessments are conducted according to the TOR. Upon completion of this phase, five copies of the EIS, an executive summary of the EIS and a digital version of the EIS must be submitted to NIMOS. A recommended EIS structure is provided by NIMOS; it includes the identification of potential impacts, a review of alternatives, details of the views of stakeholders and the criteria for evaluating the possible significance of the impacts.


  • Reviewing Phase: This phase allows for NIMOS to review the technical quality, accuracy and completeness of the EIS, ensuring that all necessary information has been provided. A multi-disciplinary team will be required to conduct the review; external advice may also be sought as well as the input of the Ministry. During this phase the public will also be given the opportunity to comment on the findings of the ESIA. NIMOS provides a step-by-step approach for the review phase and a compliance checklist. The adequacy, accuracy and completeness of the EIS are assessed via a number of criteria compiled through questions into a review checklist. The ESIA review team will put together a Review Report for consideration by NIMOS. The requirements for the Review Report are provided. 


  • Decision and Monitoring Phase: During this phase NIMOS and the Ministry will make a decision on the outcome of the ESIA process and a post-decision evaluation of the proposed project. During this phase NIMOS and the Ministry must: justify the approval or denial of the project and report this to the decision-maker; issue a permit if the project has been approved; continue to monitor the project annually and request additional mitigation measures where necessary; and consider if it is appropriate the allow the project to continue under the existing conditions. The applicant must implement an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) as prepared in the proposal for the project and conduct mandatory monitoring. Guidelines for EMP are also given.


Applicants have the right to appeal against decisions of NIMOS. Appeals are made to the Minister for Environment who may consult with the NMR and experts panels where established. A hearing may be conducted. The Minister for Environment will have the final decision on the appeal.

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