The election victory of leftist Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala in this week’s runoff election has instilled fears of higher taxes and new restrictive policies in the mining sector. Peru is a leading producer of precious metals, and the U.S. relies heavily on Peruvian imports of zinc, tin, gold, copper, and silver. (To see exactly to what degree, take a look at the USGS Commodity Summaries 2011 report).
Whether or not worries of greater state involvement in Peru’s mining sector in light of Humala’s ties to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez will materialize remains to be seen, as Humala ran on a more moderate economic platform in the runoff-election than before the first round of voting in April.
The larger issue for the U.S. is that our unnecessarily high degree of dependence on foreign imports of metals and minerals leaves us vulnerable to geopolitical changes. It doesn’t take war or major political unrest, – a couple thousand of ballots could be all it takes to potentially disrupt our supply of critical resources. Unless we explore and develop the resources beneath our own soil, all we can do in such situations is sit and wait.