Energy & Mining

The Dominican Republic’s Mining Sector in 2024

Mining contributes 2% of the Dominican Republic’s GDP, but its significance extends beyond economic metrics, having played a pivotal role in the development and growth of the nation.

The Dominican Republic rests atop a veritable treasure trove of minerals, particularly in its central region.

The country is comparable in area to mid-sized US states such as Mississippi or Pennsylvania, but it hosts abundant deposits of gold and bauxite, along with other valuable resources including sand, iron ore, silver, marble, copper, amber, zinc, gypsum, and salt.

In 2020, the mining sector surged, generating an economic activity totalling more than USD1.5 billion, equivalent to 2.0% of GDP, according to the country’s central bank. Looking ahead, substantial investment of USD3.5bn has been earmarked for the 2022-2025 period to bolster existing mines and launch new extraction projects, as outlined in a September 2021 statement from the central bank.

Underlining its economic significance, mining accounted for a noteworthy 46% of exports in 2020, per data from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). However, despite its substantial contribution to exports, mining only represented 3.7% of government revenues that year, illustrating a diversified revenue base compared to other nations heavily reliant on raw material extraction.

In terms of metallic minerals, silver is hugely important, reaching a record production of 2,360,281 troy ounces in 2022, in contrast with the 877,796 troy ounces produced a decade prior. Similarly, nickel production witnessed a notable uptick, rising from 27,848 metric tons in 2021 to 29,222 metric tons in 2022, according to data from the country’s General Directorate of Mining.

Among the nation’s mines, Pueblo Viejo stands out as one of the most prominent. Situated in the country’s heartland and operated by Barrick Gold, this colossal open-pit gold mine churns out roughly 15 tons of gold annually. Despite its diminishing reserves, Barrick Gold has secured additional mining concessions to ramp up production, with plans to ensure production of over 800,000 troy ounces of gold per year until 2040.

In the central region lies Falconbridge Dominicana’s ferronickel Falcondo mine in Monseñor Nouel province, alongside a copper and zinc deposit operated by Corporación Minera Dominicana. This region, according to data from the EITI, holds the lion’s share of potential gold, silver, and base metal deposits.

Moving southward, the region boasts rich reserves of gypsum, salt, marble, travertine, and silica, while the east is abundant in limestone for construction aggregates and cement production. In contrast, the northern region harbors industrial minerals such as clays, silica sands, and limestone for cement production.

While most mining activities are open-pit operations, the Dominican Mining Corporation (Cormidom) made headlines in March 2021 with the inauguration of a mine in Monseñor Nouel province. The Cerro de Maimón mine, focused on copper and zinc concentrates, marks a significant shift, changing from being an open-pit mine to an underground mining project.

This initiative, under the auspices of Comidom, a subsidiary of the Australian company Perilya, has boosted throughput to approximately 1.2 million tons of raw materials annually, extending the mine’s lifespan until 2036.

This transformation is pivotal for the Dominican Republic, especially given the decline in copper production from 9,725 metric tons to 6,047 metric tons between 2016 and 2019, according to data from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. With copper prices remaining robust post-COVID-19, hovering above USD3.5 per pound, the Cerro de Maimón mine presents an opportunity to reignite production and capitalize on favorable market conditions.

In 2020, the national EITI report indicated 27 concessions for metallic mineral exploration and 71 for non-metallic mineral exploration. Furthermore, two concessions were granted for metallic mineral exploitation and 101 for non-metallic mineral exploration.

As sustainability takes center stage, the Mining and Petroleum Chamber of the Dominican Republic emphasizes the adoption of state-of-the-art technology to enhance efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Moreover, industry players are actively engaged in educational and infrastructural projects to uplift local communities. Many companies, as part of the Chamber, have embraced the EITI initiative, transparently sharing data on their mining activities and their sustainable contributions to the nation.

In essence, mining serves as a cornerstone of the Dominican Republic’s economy, driving substantial contributions to GDP and exports. While future investments hold promise for further growth, sustainability remains paramount. Collaborative endeavors and initiatives such as the EITI are instrumental in balancing economic prosperity with environmental preservation and community development, ensuring a prosperous and responsible mining sector for generations to come.

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