Can Extractive Industries Promote
A Net Benefits Framework and a Case Study of
the Marlin Mine in Guatemala
By Lyuba Zarsky and Leonardo Stanley
The Journal of Environment Development
June 2013 vol. 22 no. 2 131-154
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This article develops a framework to evaluate net benefits from mining and utilizes it to assess the Marlin mine in Guatemala. The framework integrates “weak” and “strong” sustainability principles. Under weak sustainability, a net gain in human welfare can substitute for the loss of nonrenewable resources. Under strong sustainability, nature’s life-support systems are not substitutable. The authors define “net benefits” as the joint generation of net gains to human welfare, defined as local acceptance and high economic benefits, and low risks to the resilience of environmental life-support systems, especially water, evidenced by best practice management standards. The article finds little evidence that the Marlin mine meets either weak or strong sustainability criteria: there is strong local resistance to the mine and economic benefits are low, while environmental risk is high, especially in terms of potential long-term contamination of life-supporting ground and surface water.
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The Global Development and Environment Institute’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program examines the economic, social and environmental impacts of economic integration in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on the WTO and NAFTA's lessons for trade and development policy. The goal of the program is to identify policies and international agreements that foster sustainable development.