Muddy footpaths wind past empty homes, most collapsing into ruins. Dozens of stores and bars have closed. The most prominent citizen, the chief of a tribe descended from escaped African slaves, has decamped to the capital.

A gold mine operated by a U.S.-based company opened recently in the rainforest of southern Suriname, bringing hundreds of jobs and badly needed revenue to a government struggling with some of the highest inflation in the world.

But it has also emptied out the nearest community, Langa Tabiki, a small frontier town with an outsized role in the history and culture of this South American nation, one that has depended heavily on wildcat mining.

Suriname Mining Town

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It is a South American nation in crisis: Businesses are closing, food prices are soaring and hospitals are running out of basic supplies such as paper towels and bandages.
No, this isn’t Venezuela but rather nearby Suriname, a multi-ethnic former Dutch colony where the economy is in freefall amid collapsing global commodity prices and the local currency’s resulting slide against the U.S. dollar.


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Renzo Tjon A Joe is from the smallest country in South America and going to the biggest sports competition on the planet. The 2016 Summer Olympics.

While the Olympic medal count is usually dominated by the world’s larger nations, the Games are equally as important for smaller countries. If Renzo wins a medal there are high hopes Suriname will finally get its first Olympic-sized swimming pool. It might even be named after him.