Economic risk and mineral taxation on Indigenous lands
Mining generates risk of environmental and social harm for Indigenous peoples but can also generate substantial revenues for them, creating opportunities for community development in a context where economic and social disadvantage is the norm. Especially as mining revenues should, in part, compensate for mining’s negative social and environmental impacts, it is vital that mineral taxation on Indigenous lands reflect a careful assessment of appropriate tax mechanisms and a matching of these with community priorities. Yet little has been written that could serve as a guide for Indigenous decision makers. This article contributes to an understanding of the issues and choices facing Indigenous communities in designing mineral taxation regimes, by focusing on the question of economic risk. Risk arises as a key variable in choosing or designing a mineral taxation regime in three ways. Different approaches to mineral taxation are inherently more or less risky, in the sense that they are more or less certain to generate tax revenues. A second aspect of risk involves the degree of economic certainty or predictability associated with different types of commodities and projects. Third, the risk tolerance of Indigenous peoples and communities can vary significantly. We show how Indigenous groups can integrate and address these different dimensions of risk, by recognising the ‘risk consequences’ associated with different approaches to mineral taxation and choosing an approach that reflects, as fully as possible, the group’s risk tolerance.
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