Export Bans

At a Glance
  • Outright bans on the export of unprocessed products are uncommon. 
  • A recent example is Indonesia, which in 2014 banned the export of a number of mineral ores such as nickel and bauxite, resulting in a dramatic fall in the country’s mineral exports.
  • In 2017 the government of Indonesia announced it would end its prohibition on the export of nickel ore and bauxite, but the reversal in policy caused confusion and considerable opposition from investors (and potential investors) in downstream processing.
  • A similar scenario played out in Zimbabwe which banned the export of chrome ore in 2011, only to lift it again in 2015 after admitting the ban had failed to stimulate refining of chrome.
  • The OECD’s Export Restrictions on Industrial Raw Materials contains information on export regulations in minerals, metals, and woods. 
View footnotes

[1] Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment (CCSI), Linkages to the Resource Sector. The Role of Companies, Governments and International Development Cooperation. (Bonn: Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zussamenarbeit, 2016), 39

[2] Olle Ostenson and Anton Loft, Downstream Activities. The Possibilities and the Realities, WIDER Working Paper 2017/113, (Helsinki: UNU-WIDER, 2017), 17-18

[3] Nathan and Associates, Economic Effects of Indonesia’s Mineral-Processing Requirements for Export. U.S. Agency for International Development. (Nathan and Assoxciates:2013)

[4] MacDonald Dzirutwe, “Zimbabwe hopes to transform mining sector with $4.2 billion platinum deal”. Reuters March 22, 2018

[5] Baissac et al., Zimbabwe’s Beneficiation Policy Part 1: Understanding the drivers and objectives. (Eunomix research, 2015), 32

Key Resources

See more resources

Economic Effects of Indonesia's Mineral-Processing Requirements for Export

This report examines the economic implications of the export ban on unprocessed mineral resources that took effect in Indonesia in 2014. The ...

Zimbabwe Hopes to Transform Mining Sector With $4.2 Billion Platinum Deal

This article discusses Zimbabwe's $4.2 billion platinum mine deal and how the investment will change the landscape of Zimbabwe's mining ...

Export Restrictions on Industrial Raw Materials

This online inventory tool contains information on export regulations in minerals, metals and woods. The database records measure that ...

Topic Briefing

Outright export bans on unprocessed products are uncommon. The most recent example is Indonesia which in 2014 banned the export of a number of mineral ores such as nickel and bauxite. Exports of mineral concentrates were permitted for a period of three years and during this time export taxes would be levied at rising rates. In addition, a number of positive supports were provided to investments in processing, including no tariffs on imports of capital goods and inputs required for processing and a variety of tax reductions. These measures resulted in a dramatic fall in Indonesia’s mineral exports. The value of unprocessed exports of bauxite, copper, and nickel fell from US$7 billion in 2013 to just under US$2.9 billion in 2014. Nickel exports, which declined by 97 percent, were particularly hard hit. The export bans were introduced at a time of falling prices and widespread excess capacity for the minerals concerned, which exacerbated the negative impacts. As a result, the rules were soon modified. For example, bauxite producers were allowed to resume exports while they were in the process of building aluminum refineries, but they would have to pay export taxes. In January 2017, the government then announced that it would end the prohibition on the export of nickel ore and bauxite and extend a temporary deal to allow the export of copper concentrate.

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However, in the interim, government policies have a positive impact on investments downstream. Most of the capital came from China in partnership with local investors. The reversal in government policy has caused confusion and considerable opposition from investors and potential investors in downstream processing.[1],[2],[3]

Additionally, the Zimbabwe government proposed a tax on raw platinum exports in order to compel mining companies to invest in smelting and refining. The tax was postponed but government has stated that once a facility was established, it would want the processing to be done locally. In 2013, government proposed a tax on raw platinum exports to compel mining companies to invest in smelting and refining capacity in Zimbabwe. The tax was supposed to come into effect in January 2015 but was pushed to 2018 to allow the miners time to set up the facilities:

We have been trying to use taxation but until we have established a facility to process locally the companies will continue to argue that we are being unfair. Once we have processing capacity locally we will institute a la that the amount of concentrate produced first takes care of the capacity that would have been established locally before it can be exported…We have made it clear that as soon as a refinery is built locally, we would want processing done locally.[4]

In 2011, the Zimbabwean government banned the export of chrome ore. In June 2015, after admitting that the ban had failed to stimulate refining of chrome, the ban was lifted.[5]

The OECD has a database of export restrictions. The OECD Export Restrictions on Industrial Raw Materials contains information on export regulations in minerals, metals, and woods. The database records measures restrain exports from 2009-2014 at the 6-digit level of HS2007 classification.