Mineral output increases despite world commodity price drop

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The value of mineral exports and domestic sales increased in the first quarter of this year despite lower commodity prices on the world market.

In 2018, annual domestic mineral sales achieved US$66.2 million compared to 2017, an increase of 38.79 percent, while exports reached US$1,439 million, an increase of 8.2 percent compared to 2017.

Meanwhile, domestic mineral sales increased 43 percent for the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period last year, representing 25 percent of the annual plan, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Exports were expected to hit US$433 million in the first quarter, a 10.24 percent increase compared to the same period last year, making up 24.32 percent of the 2019 annual plan.

The main minerals are gold, copper, potassium, silver, lignite, metal and lime.

The government has given approval for 281 companies to invest in the mining sector, of which 110 firms are investing in exploration with the other 171 concentrating on production.

The government last year encouraged mining operations to boost total production to 11,509 billion kip, or an increase of 7.5 percent compared to 2017.

Laos’ income from mining was significantly affected by the drop in global commodity prices in 2016-2017.

The growth rate of the mining sector dropped last year by 4.3 percent compared to 2017. 

However, mining remains a vital sector, bringing in income for national economic development.

Investment and development in the sector proliferated from 2003-2017, generating around US$150 million a year on average for the government’s budget, as well as creating job opportunities for local people.

In 2012, the mining and quarrying sector’s contribution to GDP was 7 percent. It accounted for 12 percent of government revenue and 10 percent of national income with 80 percent being foreign direct investment.

However, besides the potential for significant benefits, there are risks of environmental and social impacts.

The government previously stopped authorising new mining feasibility studies and cancelled concessions for several projects to ensure that mineral production did not harm the environment.   

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