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Dominican Republic: an introduction

Dominican Republic : AN INTRODUCTION

Talking about the Dominican Republic is to invite the reader to imagine beautiful white sand beaches, the amazing sea, permanent sun and good times. But all this is just one aspect of the island that this country shares with Haiti.

Not everyone knows that the Dominican Republic is in fact one of the strongest economies in Central America and the Caribbean. Not everyone knows that the country has experienced significant growth in the Americas over the last twenty years, reflected in the increase in gross domestic product of about 5% annually in recent times.

An appropriate legal framework, among other factors, has enabled increasingly important investment in sectors such as tourism, construction, mining, energy and free zones.

It is expected that the pressure of full development on natural resources will increase over time, so the country has made major efforts to preserve its environment through various means, including:

- Minimisation and Mitigation of the Impact of Work and Activity on the Environment

In harmony with international legal developments in the field, it was imperative to include the environmental variable in each and every one of the projects carried out by both the State and the private sector. This was done in part through the most important regulation with respect to the environment of the country, the General Law of Environment, brought into force in 2000, which established the need for environmental studies prior to the start of work or activities and comprehensive monitoring of environmental compliance.

- Increased number of protected areas

In 2004, the National System of Protected Areas was reorganised through the Law of Protected Areas and Biodiversity. Subsequently, in 2011, new protected areas of different categories and objectives were added, totalling 123 to date.

- Increased environmental monitoring

While it is still insufficient, environmental monitoring by various agencies (Environmental District Attorney’s Office and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) has increased. Consequently, more and more violators of environmental standards are being prosecuted, with the environmental authorities often imposing heavy fines for violations of the General Law of the Environment and Natural Resources, among other penalties.

- Sustainability as the essence of development: The National Development Strategy 2010–2030

In 2011, the Law on National Development Strategy 2010-2030 came into force. Of the four areas set out therein, two specifically provide sustainability. One of these seeks an integrating economy that is competitive and environmentally sustainable. Its counterpart seeks a society that protects the environment and natural resources via environmentally sustainable production and consumption, adapting to climate change and managing and controlling risk equity and efficiency.

- Green Taxation

The last tax reform included the first ‘green tax’ that aims to protect the environment by incorporating an additional tax for new vehicles according to their level of contamination.

However, there are many outstanding tasks, namely:

1. Establish a plan of territorial organisation,

2. Reach sustainability of the main economic sectors (tourism, agriculture, industry, etc.),

3. Regulate the water and sanitation sector,

4. Establish integral management disposal of residues with appropriate infrastructure systems of waste,

5. Consider incentives and disincentives (as appropriate) to promote environmental protection, among others.

With this in mind, we wonder how these initiatives and the implementation of strong environmental protection policies affect the business sector and investors of the country in general?

Alongside this vision for the country and its sustainability goal, the investor and the business sector will do their part in incorporating the environmental variable and good environmental practices into their activities. Not only is this required by the Dominican environmental legislation, but also by financial institutions (international ones are more rigorous) that monitor compliance, as well as by society in general.

The expectation of properly evaluating a project, its location, its operation, among other factors, will assure the investor of its legal and environmental feasibility long before the beginning of the investment. This tranquillity is also guaranteed by the commitment of the environmental authorities and the institutionalism achieved over the last decade.

But the legal environmental feasibility of a project is already insufficient to establish its viability and sustainability. One of the most important aspects to be considered by the interested parties is undoubtedly its adaptation to climate change.

Indeed, as an island, climate change takes first place on the environmental agenda. The biggest challenge that the Dominican Republic will face in the near future is its adaptation to the consequences of the most significant environmental impact caused by human activity: global warming.

There are many questions: how will climate change affect tourism infrastructure located in coastal areas? And the agricultural sector? etc. Finding the appropriate responses will help us to manage the expected consequences of climate change in the country: water shortages, increased intensity of extreme weather (hurricanes, rain), floods in coastal areas, displacement of population, among others.

Given this, it is clear that provision should be the rule when planning investments. In this context, the integration of an expert multidisciplinary team that has the ability to visualise and ensure a dynamic and accurate development for the project and a sustainable successful future is essential to a comprehensive assessment of plans and projects for growth, ensuring not only legal viability, but also in the economical, social and environmental aspects.

Just thinking about the big things, the soul is prepared to carry them out

Is sustainable mining possible?

It is well known that mining operations alter and modify the environment where they take place. At the primary level and within the effects that can be generated are those that affect the environment:

  • Negative effects on biodiversity
  • Impact on water sources
  • Subsurface infiltration
  • Noise and vibrations
  • Emission of particles that affect air quality

In addition, mismanaged mining can have an impact on nearby communities, causing problems such as:

  • Changes in the social dynamics of populations
  • Migrations
  • Increased accident rates
  • Community conflicts
  • Damage to public infrastructure

Given this situation the question then arises: is it possible to exert mining that is environmentally responsible and at the same time productive and profitable? The answer is yes. There is a way to do things correctly. It starts with the application of international standards and best practices for mining that are committed to the development of communities and the environment.

These best practices are defined by ECLAC as those that “take into consideration models for management improvement, environmental and social management and performance of productive sectors, from experience and replicable success stories, taking into account the nature and specific conditions of each activity and its surroundings“. Best practices are based on a number of instruments and standards. Some of them are:

  • UN Global Compact’s principles No. 7, 8  and 9

  • Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) standards

  • International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) principles

  • World Bank standards

  • IFC Guides and Ecuador principles

  • ISO 14000 environmental standards

  • The AA1000 norm

The ultimate goal of these guidelines is to control, minimize and / or compensate for impacts on the environment and communities. Similarly, they lead to sound management of natural resources and ensure compliance with national laws and regulations.

The benefit to companies operating mines is significant because these best practices translate into cost efficiency, reduction in future risks and environmental and social liabilities, resulting ultimately in a good corporate image and reputation.

In short, sustainable mining is possible. For companies engaged in the extraction of minerals it is essential to seek proper advice in the abovementioned standards, in order to maintain a balance among the different entities involved or affected in the mining context.