McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Dominican Republic

Key Data

Population:10,088,598 people Area:48,442 km2 Density:208 people / km2 Demographics:73% mixed race
16% white
11% black.
Mineral Resources: GDP:$93.2 billion GDP per capita:$9,241 GINI:48.4


Overview: The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern half was initially inhabited by Arawak natives from the Orinoco delta region of South America before the Spanish arrived in 1492 as part of Columbus’s first expedition to the Americas. In the ensuing conquest the native people of the island were all but destroyed by war and disease and in 1510 the Spanish began importing slaves from Africa to deal with the growing labour shortage in the country’s increasingly important sugar plantations. In 18212 the Spanish portion of the island declared itself independent but was subsequently occupied for 22 years by Haitian forces, during which time slavery was officially abolished. Following the end of Haitian occupation the Dominican Republic was ruled by a number of liberal and conservative governments as well as a brief renewed period of Spanish rule between 1861 and 1865. Over time the country gradually became incorporated into the US sphere of influence who occupied the country from 1916 to 1924. From 1930 to 1961 the Dominican Republic was under the rule of the brutal, US-backed dictator Rafael Trujillo, who was assassinated in 1961, prompted a period of instability in which in 1963 the popularly elected leftist President Juan Bosch was overthrown in a military coup and in 1965 US Marines deployed to prevent his return. Since then the Dominican Republic has seen relative stability and sustained, though highly uneven, economic groups under a series of governments of both President Bosh’s Democratic Liberation Party and of the right-wing Social Christian Reformist Party.

Role of mining within national history: When the Spanish first arrived in the Dominican Republic one of the first natural resources they set about exploiting was the island’s gold and silver reserves.[1] However, these reserves were soon depleted and other goods such as sugar shaped the Dominican Republic’s economy, until the 1970’s when large scale exploitation of gold and ferronickel began, with the opening up of the country’s first open pit gold mine in 1975.[2] By 1987 mining accounted for 34% of the country’s export earnings however, low global metal prices at the time meant production was slow to expand.[3] However, in recent years the sector has grown substantially due to foreign investment in large scale mining projects.[4]

History of resource exploitation: Despite having only a relatively recent history of large-scale mining, the Dominican Republic has had a long history of resource exploitation, mainly as a sugar exporter. For most of the country’s Republic foreign owned sugar plantations (first by the Spanish, then by Americans) formed the mainstay of the Dominican Republic’s economy.[5] In time sugar was to become less important and today the Dominican Republic relies on light manufacturing for the majority of its exports.[6]

[1] Dominican Republic: Mining. Countrystudies.us.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dominican Republic Export and Investment Guide. USAID. Section VIII 5-6.

[5] Hall, Micahel R. Sugar and Power in the Dominican Republic: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Trujillos. P 5.

[6] Dominican Republic at a Glance. The World Bank.

Mining Characteristics

Geological overview: Formed along a major fault zone of the North American and Caribbean plates in the Cretaceous to Late Eocene period, the Island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern half, is a very geologically rich area with significant gold and base metal (primarily nickel) deposits in Los Ranchos, Maimon, Tireo and Duarte Formations in the Cordillera Central which runs through the centre of the country.[1]

Number and type of mines: ?

Water issues: The Dominican Republic is a tropical country with an average rainfall of 54.5 inches a year.[2] Tropical storms and hurricanes are also a frequent occurrence. Thus water issues are of particular importance for communities affected by mining projects. The risk of acid mine drainage due to the oxidation of sulphides in waste rock from Barrick Gold’s Pueblo Viejo prject due to heavy rainfall in the region was cited by the government’s Minster for the Environment Jaime David Fernandez Mirandel as a key area of concern[3] and community groups have frequently protested the project due to fears over contamination of the local water supply.[4]

[1] Country Info: Geology of the Dominican Republic. Goldquest Corporation.

[2] Annual Rainfall in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic-Infoguide.com

[3] Dominican court rules against Barrick Gold in land dispute. Dominican Today.

[4] FALPO advierte explotación Barrick dañará salud y medioambiente. No a la Mina.

Economic Context

Importance of mining to the national economy: As has been discussed earlier large scale mining in the Dominican Republic is a comparatively recent phenomenon, however, there has been considerable investment in the country’s mining sector in recent years as evidenced by Xstrata’s  29,000 tonnes a year Falcondo nickel mine[1] and Barrick’s revival of the Pueblo Viejo gold mining project.[2] In 2010 mining and quarrying only accounted for 0.2% of the country’s GDP.[3]

Unemployment levels: 13.3% (2011 est.)[4]

Raw materials as a percentage of exports: 30%[5]

[1] Xstrata restarts Falcondo ferronickel operations. Xstrata.

[2] Pueblo Viejo: Project Overview. Barrick Gold.

[3] Wacaster, Susan. The Mineral Industries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. US Geological Survey.

[4] Dominican Republic. CIA World Factbook.

[5] Dominican Republic at a Glance. The World Bank.

Political Context

Brief political overview: The Dominican Republic has been since the mid 1960’s, a relatively stable representative democracy, with power frequently shifting peacefully between the three main parties (the centre-right Christian Social Reformist Party, the centrist Dominican Liberation Party and the centre-left Dominican Revolutionary Party).[1] The current President, Leonel Fernández of the PLD was first elected to one term from 1996 to 2000, before being subsequently being re-elected in 2004 and again in 2008.[2] In both elections President Fernández one strong first-round victories, running on a platform of strong economic performance and strong links to the US.[3][4] President Fernández has said he will not seek re-election in the May, 2012, with polls indicating a close split between the PLD’s Danilo Medin and former President, Hipólito Mejía of the PRD.[5]

Corruption (as measured out of 10 by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index): 2.6[6]

Mining code, legal precedents for mining: The first major overhaul to the Dominican Republic’s mining code occurred in 1971 with Law No. 146 which laid out new provisions for mining in the country, which made it easier to foreign companies to operate in the country and declared that the “exploration of the national territory is of primary interest to the state`” as well as well as curtailing the right of citizens to restrict mining activities once a concession has been granted.[7] It is this law that still forms the backbone of the Dominican mining code.

Government attitude towards foreign mining companies: Since the introduction of the 1971 mining code the attitude of the Dominican Republic towards mining companies has been largely positive, with renewed support coming in recent years, with the influx of foreign investment in the sector being seen as contributing to development and economic growth. On the 7th of February, 2012, President Fernández gave a speech in Cotui, defending Barrick Gold`s Pueblo Viejo project which has come under frequent criticism due to its poor environmental and human rights record, championing the project as key to the country’s political, social and economic stability.[8]

[1] Dominican Republic. US State Department.

[2] Dominican Republic: Political and Economic Conditions and Relations with the United States. CRS Report to Congress.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Categórico triunfo del presidente Lionel Fernández en Dominicana. La Jornada.

[5] Benenson Poll: Medina has 50%, Mejía has 46%. Dominican Today.

[6] Corruption Perceptions Index: 2011. Transparency International.

[7]Mining Law of the Dominican Republic: Law No. 146.  Articles 28 and 38.

[8] Fernández lauds Barrick`s investment to extract gold. Dominican Today.

Social Context

Civil society: Civil society has historically been weak in the Dominican Republic, with local leaders and clientalistic political parties curtailing the growth of independent civic life.[1] However, in recent decades the Dominican Republic has seen a growth of new civil society groups, especially human rights groups and organisations tied to the Catholic Church, which is frequently cited along with the media as the most trusted institution in the country.[2] These groups played a very important role in the 1990`s strengthening Dominican democracy, especially in increasing the role of the judiciary at the expense of the country`s powerful executive.[3] Environmental groups like the organisation Accion Verde and left-wing activist groups such as FALPO (Frente Amplio de Lucha Popular) have also been important, especially in opposing mining projects in the country[4] and have attracted other constituencies, including young members of the urban middle class to speak out against the projects.[5]

Important social movements: As has been discussed a number of important social movements have emerged in the Dominican Republic in recent years, most notably enviornemntal groups and anti-imperialist groups like FALPO, as well as groups like MUDHA (the Dominican-Haitian Women`s Movement) which advocates for the rights of the country`s extremely marginalised Haitian migrant worker population, who perform many of the low wage and menial jobs in the country`s agriculture sector.[6]

General popularity of/opposition to mining: No reliable data exists for the country as a whole about the popularity of mining projects. In those regions and constituencies most affected by mining projects opposition has been widespread and vocal, though this cannot be taken to be representative of the whole country.

[1] Assessment of USAID Civil Society Programs in the Dominican Republic. USAID. P 13.

[2] Ibid. P -6.

[3] Ibid. P 15.

[4] FALPO advierte explotación Barrick dañará salud y medioambiente. No a la Mina.

[5] Cortodocumental causa  revelo en la web. Accion Verde.

[6] Wooding, Brdiget. Contesting discrimination and statelessness in the Dominican Republic. P 2.