The operation of a mine in a foreign country is one of the most complex and risk fraught activities that an investor can become involved in. From long-range projections to super cycles and crashes in mineral prices, to the dizzyingly complex credit arrangements and compliance with local licensing, labour and tax laws, mining is not for the faint of heart. And then, on top of it all, there is the near-constant threat that competitors and state powers want to seize part or all of your investment. In the not-so-distant past, these interventions were often unsubtle. Expropriations or nationalisations were done on the basis of little warning or explanation, local executives could be thrown in jail or expelled, while licences could be revoked through brazenly corrupt administrative measures. Now, thanks to conventions and bilateral investment treaties, states have softened their approach — but the constant risk of new leaders promising to deliver a larger share of the mineral wealth, whet...

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