Suriname was one of the world's 10 largest producers of bauxite, and alumina accounted for 70% ($342 million) of foreign exchange earnings in 2000. The mining of gold and bauxite was the country's leading industry in 2002, and mining accounted for 4% of GDP. Alumina production and oil were the second- and third-ranking industries, and crude oil was the second-leading export commodity. Gold and crude petroleum production were growing. In 2001, 4.51 million tons (gross weight) of bauxite was mined, up from 3.93 million tons in 1998. The Coermitibo mine produced 2 million tons per year, and was expected to produce 4 million tons per year of bauxite into the next decade. The mine, along with those at Accaribo and Lelydorp III, all in Marowijne District, were 55% owned by Suriname Aluminum Co. (Suralco), a subsidiary of Alcoa, and 45% by BHP Billiton PLC. The Accaribo Mine (1 million tons per year), in Para District, also operated by Suralco (76%) and Billiton (24%), was to deplete its reserves soon, at which point bauxite would be produced from the Lelydorp III deposit, which had reserves of 19.5 million tons, and would produce 2 million tons per year. Suriname's bauxite industry has suffered in recent years from a weak market, foreign competition, and the effects of the guerrilla war, but mines with higher-grade bauxite were replacing older depleted mines. The alumina industry, however, was threatened by the deterioration of the international alumina market. Suriname's privately owned multinational companies mined the bauxite and processed alumina and aluminum. The Suriname Aluminum Company (SURALCO) has estimated bauxite reserves at 575 million tons. In 2001, Alcoa, Inc., of the United States, proposed to invest more than $2 billion in strengthening the bauxite industry and energy generation, including exploiting bauxite from the Bakhuys Mountains, in western Suriname. The government was considering other such proposals as well.
Official gold mine output has been 300 kg per year since 1992. Gold has been mined in south and east Suriname since the second half of the 19th century. In addition, the government estimated as much as 30,000 kg of unrecorded production in alluvial deposits, much of it by people from Brazil. Most of the nearly 40,000 Brazilians living in Suriname arrived during the past several years in search of gold. More than 15,000 people—Suriname's population was 420,000—were employed in the gold industry. The government expressed concern about the damage to the environment caused by illegal miners' use of mercury. Gold was produced by numerous small operators and sold to the government. Gold concessions were negotiated with N.V. Grassalco, the state-owned gold company. The Gross Rosebel gold property, south of Paramaribo, was the most advanced gold development. Cambior, Inc., of Canada, which purchased Rosebel's remaining holdings, was to begin construction of a mine in 2002, and estimated an output of 5,500 kg per year of gold during a seven-year mine life. In 2001, Suriname also produced hydraulic cement, common clays, gravel, common sand, and crushed and broken stone. Suriname also had resources of chromium, clay, copper, diamond, iron ore, manganese, nickel, platinum, and tin. Because infrastructure remained an obstacle to economic growth, construction on a new electricity line, financed by the Chinese government, was to begin in 2002 and be operational in 2003.