Greetings from Guyana! Tim Laing writes…

I am an environmental economist interested in sustainable development – the move towards a growth path that promotes the environment, management of natural resources and improvements in the economic and social well-being of individuals.

A key aspect of this research involves the extractive industries, a much-maligned sector – due to its sometimes negative social and environmental impacts. The sector is, however, vital to many economies, livelihoods and also, as shown by recent work by organizations such as the World Bank, vital to the move towards a low-carbon economy – providing the minerals and metals needed to build the vast amount of renewable electricity generation required.

My research delves into these economic, social and environmental effects, and tries to understand how the negative impacts could be reduced, whilst boosting the positive benefits that the sector can bring.

With fellow members of CENTRIM I recently published a piece on how the triple-bottom-line, the idea that people and the environment should be placed alongside profits, could be implemented in the coal-mining industry. In this paper we delved into large coal-mining companies and developed a new strategic framework for understanding how, and where, these companies could take action that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their processes, whilst also achieving benefits for other parts of the triple-bottom-line.

Small-scale mining of minerals such as gold and diamonds provides key livelihoods for millions of people across South America, sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia. This type of mining also raises social and environmental challenges, but my research has focused on the economic impacts and the drivers of growth of this sector. I recently published a study into the legal, economic and geological driving forces behind the small-scale gold mining sector in Guyana that has grown in recent years to dominate that countries economy.

Small-scale mining in Guyana

The current global Covid-19 pandemic is impacting the mining industry as it is impacting the entire world. The impact on this sector has profound importance for those countries and individuals that depend on mining– and could impact the key role the industry has in achieving the transition to a low-carbon economy. I have recently published a discussion of how Covid-19 is impacting the economics of the sector and the potential short, medium and long-term consequences of the pandemic for mining. The paper outlines a set of questions for future research that need to be examined in order to help this important sector achieve its potential in contributing to sustainable development.