Canadians work a quiet industrial rapport in the Caribbean
Quiet corporate relations from Canadians with growing investments throughout a very restrive Caribbean are paying off for them in the Dominican Republic. In that country, Falconbridge Domini-cana, or Falcondo, the nickel mining and refining giant of Toronto-based Falconbridge Nickel Mines Ltd., finds its operations and functions generally accepted by a succession of Dominican presidents, the political opposition, the press, and most of the business leaders of a compact Dominican society.
Situated near Bonao, a farm city in the central semimountainous region of the Dominican Republic, Falcondo is not only one of the largest foreign-owned mining companies in the Caribbean, but the second largest firm in the relatively small Dominican economy. (The largest is the state-owned sugar corporation.)
The main reason for corporate peace has been the application of Canadian policies of quiet negotiating with the people who count, which in this small country means the ruling president and his key cabinet members. In addition, Falcondo's board membership always includes local industrialists and senior government officials and is said to have refused over the years to pay out graft or make under-the-table deals of any kind.
Falcondo has also hired senior and middle management Dominicans to run its local nickel operations, losing Falcondo's president last year only because he was asked by President Silvestre Antonio Guzman Fernandez to run the state sugar corporation, his second time in that job.
In the high-technology mining industry, which is not labor intensive, a potentially explosive issue in a country with about 20 percent unemployment, the Canadian-directed firm has nevertheless persuaded Dominican engineers and metallurgists to come home and work rather than staying abroad in high-paying jobs.
Falcondo's latest coup is acceptance by the Dominican President of its parent company's $1.75 million offer for agrarian recovery programs following last fall's two devastating hurricanes, which wiped out agricultural production.
Falconbridge Nickel Mines Ltd. has given $750,000 to the Canadian Hunger Foundation, which will manage the Dominican program with the balance of $900,000 in counterpart funding to come from Canada's International Development Agency.
Falcondo has managed to do all this in a region where revolution, nationalization, and foreign executive kidnapping have increased substantially during the 1970s. In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, social revolution, and foreign firm nationalization have impeded expansion of outside firms.
This is unique in Canada, where a large private multinational company has persuaded the federal government to share its corporate aid program overseas.
The balance of $100,000 in the original amount has been contributed by Armco Inc. of Middletown, Ohio, a minority partner in Falconbridge Dominicana.
The Dominican Republic has not remained aloof from these trends. Last October, President Guzman nationalized Rosario Dominicano, a US-owned gold mining subsidiary, for a cash payment of about $72 million. The Dominican government is also demanding about $20 million from Gulf & Western Inc. The government claims that amount as its share in the company's earnings from sugar futures.