Natural resource use conflict: gold mining in tropical rainforest in Ghana

Gold is frequently mined in rainforests that can provide either gold or forest benefits, but not both. This conflict in resource use occurs in Ghana, a developing country in the tropics where the capital needed formining is obtained from foreign direct investment (FDI). We use a dynamic model to show that an ad valorem severance tax on gross revenue can be used to internalize environmental opportunity costs. The optimal tax must equal the ratio of marginal benefits from forest use to marginal benefits from gold extraction. Furthermore, the tax should increase (decrease)when adjusted net return on all other assets in the economy is higher (lower) than the growth in the price of gold. Empirical results suggest that the 3 per cent tax rate currently used in Ghana is too low to fully represent the external cost of extraction (i.e., lost forest benefits).

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