Interesting article from The Economist.
African governments are seeking higher rents and bigger ownership stakes from foreign miners. Not before time.
THE true extent of Africa’s vast wealth of resources is hard to guess. Geologists have picked over most of the rest of the globe in search of minerals, yet huge swathes of Africa remain largely unprobed. But the immense ore deposits so far discovered and soaring commodity prices on the back of rip-roaring Chinese demand have convinced the world’s miners that the continent is the next big frontier. Bumper profits have also spurred mineral-rich countries to seek a bigger share of the spoils.
The list of African governments that have miners in their sights is a long one. South Africa, home to the greatest mineral wealth in the world, estimated to be worth $2.5 trillion, is considering imposing a swingeing 50% windfall tax on mining “super profits” and a 50% capital-gains tax on the sale of prospecting rights. Those are among the proposals put forward by an independent panel of experts, set up by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to study the possibility of greater state intervention in the mining sector.
Resource nationalism is nothing new. Big Oil has suffered periodic bouts of nationalisation and sometimes seen contracts torn up in the Middle East and beyond that had run for more than 50 years. Nor is the practice confined to developing countries that feel they came off second-best when negotiating resource deals in years gone by. Australia is set to raise some $8 billion a year through a controversial new tax on miners; Britain has previously dipped into the profits of oil companies in the North Sea.
However, in the past year resource nationalism has jumped to the top of the list of things that worry the 30 biggest global miners. This was prompted by 25 countries worldwide announcing plans to boost their take of profits, according to a survey by Ernst & Young, a consultancy. A rapid rebound after commodity prices collapsed in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009 convinced cash-strapped governments that large multinationals were easy targets. In Africa mining companies are often especially vulnerable—they are usually the biggest corporate beasts around. Widespread poverty has provided a ready excuse for governments dependent on income from resources.
Read the full article here.