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Mining plays a vital role in the economic development of many countries. The emerging economies are now major players in the production and availability of key commodities such as copper (70%), bauxite (40%), iron ore and precious metals. Mining also has a positive impact on the economy of many countries. Another impact of mining can be measured in terms of employment opportunities and income generation. Commercial scale mining provides employment and skills transfer to more than 2 million workers. The multiplier effect increases this benefit by a factor of between 2 and 5. While mostly a poverty-driven activity, small-scale mining provides income to about 13 million workers and their families worldwide, in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Indonesia, among many others

Most economic research on mining still deals mainly with the macro-economic impact of the industry, looking at the benefits – or lack of- to the national economy. And there is no doubt that mining can be an important source of foreign exchange and fiscal receipts for governments, providing an adequate legal and fiscal framework is in place. When well-managed, these resources can be used as an engine for overall economic growth and the outcome of mining operations can thus produce a significant impact on national economies, as in the cases, for example, of Chile, Peru, Botswana, Ghana, Mali, Papua New Guinea and others.

However, the position of mining remains controversial and true sustainable development is not just a matter of financial flows. While mining is a major contributor towards economic development, it has also been associated with causing a number of economic, environmental and social problems, which has led many to question the sustainability of the economic outcome of mining and propounded the resource curse theory. The industry is therefore challenged to (i) mitigate its negative impacts – in terms of environment, socio-cultural, health and human development, governance, macro-economic management and corruption, as well as economic barriers to restructuring and real impacts on poverty reduction; and (ii) further improve and promote concepts and actions aiming at industry-community co-participation in the mine building process. The industry needs to ensure that its benefits are harnessed at both the local and national level in a sustainable fashion.

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