Discussion Over Mining in Panama Continues
Thursday, March 25 2010 @ 02:32 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
"You have to understand, mining is not an option for Panama (...) it is a highly polluting industry, which they intend to install in a country where the water source, our greatest resource, will be used to conduct the waste they generate," said Raisa Banfield, the Director of the Center for Environmental Advocacy (CIAM). Along with Banfield, civil organizations such as the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON) do not see how it is possible to extract copper and gold through mining without harming the country, because no state infrastructure exists to control the mining companies if they do not control pollution.
However, the miners say the times have changed. They recognize that in the '60s mining was a polluting industry, and that it was not until the last decade that the idea of mining in an environmentally responsible manner became popular. "This is a concept we have handled in recent years, but we know how, we are professional, serious companies listed on stock exchanges and we can not afford to be seen as inefficient by our shareholders," said Julio Benedetti, the President of the Panama Mining Chamber. It's really it's the responsibility of the miners and their credibility with investors, as the most important motive for realizing the extraction of metals in Panama in a manner that avoids pollution, contamination, and major scandals, said Ernest Mast, the President of Minera Panama.
Common Panamanians, meanwhile, wonder what they will gain with all of this struggle over mining by experts from both camps, while on a map of Panama it seems that half of the country will be taken over by mining interests. What's more, mining concessions have already been granted for 35,187 hectares through contracts granted by the state, representing 2% of the national territory. From the mining business in Panama, citizens will receive 2% of the value of the minerals extracted, in the case of Minera Panama, which according to Mast will represent about $80 million dollars per year from 2015 through 2057, the dates of the concession granted to the company to extract minerals from 13,600 hectares. There are also payments to Social Security and other taxes for their employees; this project will generate more than 5,000 temporary (during construction) and 1,500 permanent positions.
In this regard, Banfield think the country is being given away in exchange for jobs and minimal profits when pollution cause by substances related to the mining would have irreparable environmental costs.
Mast says in his more than 20 years of experience working in the mining industry, paying 2% to the state is appropriate. "They should know the company runs a risk if the price of copper falls, and in the same way the company's initial investment is at risk; in the case of Minera Panama the investment is more than $4 billion dollars to extract 300,000 tons of copper annually," he said. Mining Industry sources explained that for every dollar produced by gold and copper mining companies, about 30% is profit and the rest is spent on operating costs and social projects. (Source - Panama America)
Editor's Comment: Economic no-brainer. Minera Panama is going to invest more than $4 billion dollars to bring this copper mine online. That's Foreign Direct Investment - the best kind of money for any national economy. Once the mine is operating the government Panama will receive direct payments to the tune of 2% on every dollar pulled out of the ground. Indirectly, the mining company will also be spending a whole lot of money in the country to operate the mine - buying everything from electricity to gas and fuel, paying employees, supplies, you name it. The company will make money, and then spend that money right here to keep the mine running. If they manage to take 30% away as profit, then (in effect) the remaining 70% stays in Panama, one way of the other, as the cost of doing business. This is a great deal for Panama, no matter how you slice it. And, oh yeah, we have to take care of the water and the birds and the critters and the trees and the bugs and the spotted fruit flies and the whatever the hell else is out there. Once all of the copper has been taken out of the ground, backfill it all and wait 30 seconds for the jungle to come right back in and reclaim the whole area. Mining can be done in an environmentally responsible manner, and the potential for damage can be mitigated.