After the Spanish discovery of America, many Europeans were attracted to Suriname, the land where, according to legend, the city of gold known as 'El Dorado' was situated. Currently, Suriname is in the process of putting together a geophysical map that would contain the different indications of minerals in the soil
With one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, Suriname must strike the right balance between exploiting its natural resources and preserving the environment.
Various U.S. organizations and institutions promote technical cooperation with the government of Suriname to help protect the tropical rainforest, while numerous North American experts work closely with local natural resource officials to promote the sustainable development of the Surinamese hinterland. This is especially important given that the country’s immense mineral wealth has opened the way for mining as a major economic activity.
From gold, iron ore and manganese to bauxite, phosphate and kaolin, Suriname’s minerals hold great potential, and once the Ministry of Natural Resources completes the new geophysical map (which will replace the one currently in use that is based on material from 30 years ago), investors will have a veritable ‘treasure map’ to follow. Other minerals with potential for exploration include diamonds, platinum, uranium, nickel and copper.
"Gold has always played an intriguing role in history all over the world. This is also the case in Suriname.
There have also been interesting indications of copper and phosphate in the west. We have very interesting kaolin deposits in different parts of the country, including the east, where we have the bauxite mines."
Oil is another important breadwinner for Suriname, and discoveries offshore neighboring French Guyana bode well for the South American nation. Furthermore, Suriname’s recently expanded economic zone at sea could mean an added 150-mile-wide belt of offshore deposits.
Back on land, timber represents yet another money earner, but again, sustainable management of forests is key to future earnings. Iwan Sno, Director of the Statistics Department, explains how both the Surinamese government and companies are protecting the country’s forests: “Important things have been done in the forestry sector over the past two decades, including the Forest Policy, a significant milestone that has guided the industry these past several years. The government is very serious about shrewd and practical forest management and the companies in the sector have put proper emphasis on the matter.”
For Suriname, a key part of the sustainable development of the natural resources is the use of local talent. Jim Hok, Natural Resources Minister, says Suriname is keen on creating university exchange programs with Florida and Canada, and is expanding local education opportunities for mining and oil and gas sector studies. “We need ore experience in the mineral sector and wetlands management – which Florida largely specializes in. Next year, the School of Mineral and Mining starts for middle and higher education in minerals and mining. We want to train our own professionals, guided by international experts. Also, our university is expanding; they now have a special degree for the oil industry in cooperation with our state oil company,” says Mr. Hok.
Dr. Ryan Sidin, President of Anton de Kom University, is also optimistic about the role of the Surinamese in developing local resources. He says, “Given the abundance in natural resources, combined with the small population, there is tremendous space for development. Based on those two aspects there is sufficient basis for significant growth of the Surinamese economy.”