A dump at the Kumtor open pit gold mine in Kyrgyzstan, April 3, 2013.
Shamil Zhumatov / Courtesy Reuters

For the world’s mining industry, the past few years have been turbulent. Politicians, citizens, workers, and stakeholders all want a greater share of the profits, and mining companies have seen national governments raise taxes and demand the renegotiation of contracts on more favorable terms. Some governments, including that of South Africa, have even considered nationalizing mines outright.

One reason for the friction is that mines in rich countries have become increasingly depleted, making miners more reliant on deposits in less developed countries. That entails significantly more risk; poorer countries are precisely the places in which the potential for corruption and resource nationalization is greatest. 

Another reason is that commodity prices have soared. Even after a drop this year, prices for many metals, minerals, and gems are still roughly double what they were ten years ago, and profits have risen accordingly. The world’s 40 largest mining firms brought in about $500

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  • MATT MOSSMAN is an emerging markets political-risk specialist based in Washington, D.C.
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