Please join us for a brown-bag lunch event featuring Jan von der Goltz’s presentation of his recent paper with Prabhat Barnwal assessing the health and wealth effects of mines on nearby communities. Their paper is the first extensive analysis to use microdata from communities near about 800 mineral mines in 44 developing countries. The authors find that mining communities enjoy a substantial medium-term rise in asset wealth, but encounter substantial health trade-offs: a ten percentage point increase in anemia among adult women and a five percentage point increase in the prevalence of stunting in young children.
Von der Goltz and Barnwal’s research is consistent with prior evidence linking the health impacts of mines to metal toxicity and, in particular, exposure to high levels of lead. Their assessment finds health impacts only near mines of a type where metal pollution is to be expected, and it finds no systematic evidence of health effects that are not associated with exposure to metal pollution. Both the wealth benefits and health costs are strongly concentrated in the immediate vicinity (≤ 5km) of a mine. To demonstrate that the observed health impacts are due to pollution, they developed three difference-in-difference tests tailored to the known association of certain mine types with heavy metal pollution, and to the pathophysiology of lead toxicity. The results add much needed data to the literature on health impacts near industrial operations in developing countries.