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Commodities boom triggers belated nationalism debate

Evidence of at least some degree of a Chinese slowdown over the past six months has coincided with a different development. Since last summer, there have been reports of mining corporations losing hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to union activity and stoppages in South Africa.

This is particularly worrying, as in the minds of some investors it is linked with proposals over the past 12 months for new mining codes in Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, and new mining taxes in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia.

Magnus Ericsson at Raw Materials group, a consultancy, says places such as Finland, Canada and Australia have seen moves like this recently too. Governments might simply have taken until now to catch up with the commodities super-cycle, according to Ericsson.

"Resource nationalism is global, so won’t determine flows of capital on a regional level, only country by country," he says. Indeed, some reckon (perhaps optimistically) that the increased perceived political risks in South Africa might make such countries as DRC look marginally more attractive.

In recent years, even the IMF has advised countries such as Ghana and Zambia to increase taxes on the mining sector, which it deemed too low. At an Indaba panel discussion, Sheila Khama, a mining expert at ACET, a multilateral-sponsored think-tank, says government equity participation in joint ventures can sometimes help states understand what drives investment.

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