Fears about resource nationalism struck Canadian miners on Thursday, sending the stock of two companies working on two continents lower on worries that their assets could be at risk.
Stock in Centerra Gold Inc. fell 31 per cent in Toronto as concerns grew about the fate of its Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan, where legislators are attempting to revoke its rights to mine the asset, stating environmental concerns.
Shares in Tahoe Resources, another Toronto-listed company, tumbled nearly 23 per cent amid news that half way across the world in Guatemala, the government is reforming mining laws to allow it to take stakes of up to 40 per cent in new mining projects.
Resource nationalism has become a growing theme in the global mining industry as countries seek to derive more benefits from their natural resources, and miners seek reward for their discoveries. The trend has been identified by industry experts as one of its biggest challenges, and was a central discussion point at the Prospectors and Developers convention in Toronto in March.
In a report earlier this month, PricewaterhouseCoopers identified resource nationalism as a top concern of mining chief executive officers, along with rising costs, labour challenges and investor demands.
"Ownership of resources and mining industry fiscal regimes remain high on the agenda for many governments," PwC said in its report. "Nations are looking to take an increasing share of profits and resources through a range of measures."
Worries about the phenomenon are punishing stock in mining companies working in certain jurisdictions.
Earlier this month, in the latest pullback from Argentina by a major resource company, Cameco Corp., quit a joint-venture exploration project. The Argentine government is tweaking the economy in a bid to stem capital outflows and bolster the market.
In April, the government of President Cristina Fernandez ordered the expropriation of partially state-owned energy company YPF SA from Spain's Repsol YPF, drawing the rebuke even of the World Bank president, who called it a mistake.
Gold and silver miner McEwen Mining Inc. warned its investors in May that it was reconsidering its investments in Argentina.
Tahoe Resources said on Thursday that Guatemala's proposed mining law reforms should not affect its flagship Escobal project, 70 kilometres from Guatemala City.
"Full permitting for the 100 per cent-owned Escobal project is still anticipated in the second half of 2012," said Tahoe, which was unable to stop Thursday's share slide.
For Centerra, as of Thursday its shares were off 48 per cent since legislators in Kyrgyzstan began debating whether to revoke its licence at Kumtor. Centerra describes the gold mine, 60 km north of the Chinese border, as Central Asia's largest gold mine operated by a Western company.
The company said that the parliament's resolution is non-binding, and that environmental and health concerns surrounding the mine are without merit.