Creating Resource Corridors

At a Glance

  • A resource corridor is a transport route servicing large extractive projects and. Its creation involves a sequence of actions and investments, meant to promote economic development and diversification.

  • The “hard infrastructure” along the corridor includes water, power, information and communication technology (ICT) or other types of infrastructure required for the extractive companies, as well as feeder infrastructure to connect surrounding regions.

  • The “soft infrastructure” involved in a resource corridor includes institutions, coordination mechanisms, regulations, and services to facilitate economic growth and well-being. Soft infrastructure is just as important as physical infrastructure for a resource corridor’s success in meeting policy objectives.

  • Coordination among government institutions and private sector actors is key to establishing the necessary financing arrangements, shared-use infrastructure solutions, and appropriate business environments.

Case Studies

Key Resources

Topic Briefing

A resource corridor involves a sequence of actions and investments to promote economic development and diversification along a transport route that services a large extractive industry project (or several of them). Economic opportunities tend to develop around large-scale investments and trading hubs. By coordinating investments in supporting hard and soft infrastructure around a natural resource project and along the transport route, these development opportunities can be accelerated.

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Hard infrastructure refers to physical investments in water, power, ICT, or other types of infrastructure that complement the existing transport route, as well as feeder infrastructure to connect surrounding regions. Soft infrastructure refers to institutions, coordination mechanisms, regulations, and services to facilitate economic growth and well-being. Given that pipeline infrastructure cannot be shared in the same way as road or rail infrastructure, resource corridors are usually associated with mining investments.

The concepts of corridors and related growth pole development (whereby specific geographical regions are identified and targeted to increase economic activity) is not new. A resurgence of this economic planning tool occurred during the 2000s, as demand and prices for commodities rose. Extractive projects that could serve as anchor investments for resource corridors were planned and developed in many resource-rich countries. Especially in African countries, governments and development partners used geographic information systems (GIS) to assess the opportunities for resource corridors anchored around extractive projects and associated infrastructure. Resource corridors feature prominently in the literature on regional integration; they are also a key pillar of the African Mining Vision

The benefits associated with focusing on specific regions to boost economic development are particularly appealing in the African context, given the large untapped reserves, the lack of infrastructure (or obsolete infrastructure), and the financing gap faced by most governments. Given limited government resources, prioritization can be made more manageable by leveraging private sector investments and focusing on high-potential growth areas to invest in supporting infrastructure. From a regional perspective, focusing on corridor projects to advance integration among neighboring countries is also advantageous. There is an incentive to discuss and negotiate agreements when a private sector company is looking to develop a project that may benefit more than one country and that hinges on cross-border agreements. Corridor-specific agreements can lead the way in harmonizing administrative and trade policies among neighboring countries.

To date, the results of this new wave of resource corridor planning are mixed. Many corridor projects haven’t progressed past the planning stage, after planned extractive industry investments failed to materialize. After commodity prices crashed in 2014–15, mining companies retracted from large-scale investments in greenfield mines and infrastructure, focusing instead on consolidating their cashflows. However, some corridor projects, such as the revamp of the Nacala corridor in Northern Mozambique, anchored around a coking coal project led by Vale, did . Refer to the Case Studies on this topic page for further examples.

One of the key lessons learned from corridor and growth pole initiatives is that soft infrastructure considerations are just as important as the physical infrastructure itself. Access to finance, land acquisition, and sound governance are fundamental for the promotion of economic activity around transport infrastructure. Furthermore, coordination among government, institutional, and private sector actors is key; these actors need to agree on financing arrangements, implementing shared use infrastructure solutions, and creating a business environment that supports projects to proceed while ensuring compliance with social and environmental standards. Environmental and climate change analyses and safeguards, in particular, have fallen short in recent resource corridor assessments and implementation. This is a key area that needs to be strengthened, given that these geographical policies have a big impact on land use change. Given that the agricultural sector features prominently in the corridor and growth pole strategies, future climatic considerations will be key in determining infrastructure investments and agricultural potential.