Suriname is the second smallest country of the South American continent and the least explored in the world. Situated in the so-called Guiana Shield, it is divided into the northern and southern areas. The northern part consists of lowland coastal zone, including the capital city of Paramaribo, where most of the population resides. The southern part has tropical rainforests covering 80% of the country’s land surface along the border with Brazil. The country’s population of 481,267 is composed of several distinct ethnic groups, with the Hindustanis as the largest at 27% of the population, who are mostly descendants of 19th century contract workers from India. The smallest ethnic groups are the Brazilians with 40,000 members many of whom were gold miners, and the Chinese with estimated 14,000 members many of whom are also descendants of 19th century contract workers. Some 15 miles (24 kilometers) into the inland from the Atlantic Coast is Paramaribo where coffee, fruits, timber, bauxite and tourism are important sources of revenue. With two mountain ranges of Bakhuy Mountains and Van Asoh Mountains, the country has Julianatop as the highest mountain at 1,200 meters (4,419 ft.) above sea level. The second highest mountain is Tafelberg at 1,026 meters (3386 ft.). The lowest point is the coastal plain with less than two meters in height.
The country is saddled with major environmental problems of deforestation that allows timber to be cut for export and deplete forest resources, and pollution of inland waterways by small-scale mining operations. However, despite these environmental problems, the country is endowed with tropical rainforests which are mostly unspoiled and virginal.