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Monday, May 27 2019 @ 12:13 PM UTC

Mining Reforms Adopted In Second Debate

Gold & MiningIn an eventful session that lasted over 11 hours, the full National Assembly last night approved the second reading of Bill 277 to amend the Code of Mineral Resources, which is being promoted by the Executive. After heated discussions that highlighted the fierce Indian allegations of opposition deputies and Irene Prado Crescencia Gallego, the National Assembly proceeded to vote article by article on the controversial project. In the end, 44 deputies voted in favor and 16 voted against. Jorge Alberto Rosas, deputy of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (Molirena) - the political party allied with the government of Ricardo Martinelli - abstained from voting on the article in the law regarding the granting of mining concessions to foreign governments and states, through corporations. Previously, Rosas has made strong statements against mining. The approval of this project came amid severe criticism from indigenous groups, environmentalists, university students, workers and lawmakers from opposition political parties, who warned that the Government is giving to other nations or companies controlled by them, a part of the national territory, violating the Constitution.

During the second debate reforms were introduced to the original project, such as increasing royalties from 4% to 5%. In addition, it was agreed that this 1% increase would go to the program of Disability, Aging and Death of the Social Security Fund. According to estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, this will represent about $22 million annually. They also approved that 2% of those royalties would go to construction projects and development programs in the areas and communities surrounding the mining concessions.

Roberto Henriquez, the Minister of Trade and Industry, estimated that with these changes the company Minera SA Panama - which has a copper concession Donoso - will have to pay about $22 million dollars more per year to the treasury. "If they [Minera Panama SA] want to do business in the country, they have to pay more. They will have to adapt to the new canon" he said.

After the second debate - after 10:00 pm - a group of indigenous Ngäbe who had remained in the Assembly during the discussion of the project, were enraged against the government and deputies and they tried to enter the Palacio Justo Arosemena. At press time, a contingent of riot police arrived at the Assembly to control the situation, but the Indians demanded the withdrawal of the project and the presence of the president, Ricardo Martinelli. While this was happening in the capital, in San Felix, Chiriqui, the Deputy Minister of Labour, Luis Ernesto Carles, who chairs the committee appointed by the Executive to mediate with the opposition to mining, met with members of the Association Ngäbe Bugle. (La Prensa)

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