Bauxite mining and alumina smelting are the backbone of Suriname's economy, bringing in two-thirds of its export revenues. With 3.9 million tons produced annually, Suriname is the eighth largest producer of bauxite in the world and responsible for an estimated 3.2 percent of all bauxite production globally in 1998. The industry is entirely in the hands of 2 corporations: the Suriname Aluminum Company (Suralco), a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa); and Billiton Maatschappij Suriname (BMS). The government is looking for new partners to develop mines in the western Bakhuys Mountains in preparation for the exhaustion of existing mines, expected around 2006.
In 1998 Suriname's gold production reached an estimated 770,000 ounces, but much of the gold mining industry, which includes some 14,000 small producers, either mines illegally or evades government tax levies . The government tried to bring miners into the formal economy by lowering the levy rate from 3 percent to 1 percent in 1997, but with limited success. Legitimate mining operations have been further discouraged by low prices for gold on the world market.
Other resources include oil, kaolin (used in ceramic, rubber, plastic, paper, and cosmetics production), nickel, silver, and granite. Deposits of manganese, platinum, uranium, iron ore, phosphate, and diamonds have also been found. The discovery of offshore oil and gas reserves also suggests significant promise.
Manufacturing, which generated around 12 percent of the GDP in 1998, is dominated by food processing, which accounts for 60 percent of the revenues of this sector, and by the refining of bauxite into alumina and aluminum.