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Sunday, November 18 2018 @ 03:34 AM UTC

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Protests and Confrontations Over Reforms To Mining Code

Gold & Mining"Down with mining! The Ngäbe-Buglé people will fight with their lives to prevent the exploitation of mining! Murderers!" Those were the war cries from some of the indigenous groups and environmentalists yesterday who rejected from the gallery of the National Assembly the package of reforms to the Mining Code, which is being discussed in the second debate. Before entering the legislative chamber, indigenous leaders, university groups, environmentalists and members of the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) spent two hours protesting on the grounds of the Palacio Justo Arosemena. To calm them down, the Deputies of the National Assembly decided to appoint a commission, headed by the President of the National Assembly José Muñoz, who attended and met with the protesters, and granted them the courtesy of being allowed to speak (before the National Assembly). Faced with the shouts of the demonstrators from the stands, Munoz demanded their respect or said otherwise they would be removed.

Voices against the bill are not lacking. The director of the organization Sustainable Panama, Raisa Banfield - who participated in the meeting - warned they would continue to protest, even after the project is adopted. "They are suppressing the Indians. I am outraged. To whom to they owe their votes, to the people who oppose mining or to foreign countries," she said. For her part, the the executive director of the National Association for the Conservation of Nature, Alida Spadafora, said the repressions against the people in the interior of the country are measures of intimidation so that people will not go out to fight for their rights. "They did not take into account our contributions to the consultations, and much less will they listen to us now," she said.

Rufina Venado, a leader of the Kodrian region of the Ngäbe-Bugle people said they will not allow a single mine to operate in their territory. Meanwhile, the secretary general of the Trade Union of Construction Workers and Allied Workers (SUNTRACS), Saul Mendez, reported the police attacked the demonstrators with bird shot, rubber bullets and tear gas. "This is the second law Chorizo" he said. The full body of the National Assembly began the second debate yesterday afternoon. At about 8:00 p.m. the members declared themselves in permanent session. The Government has intensified their propaganda that advocates the adoption of the reform package. (Panama America)

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National Assembly Discussing Reforms To Mining Code In Second Debate

Gold & MiningThe proposed reforms to the Mining Code are being discussed on the floor of the National Assembly this afternoon. The beginning of this meeting was scheduled for 3:30 pm, but it started about two hours later. While the deputies started the second debate over these reforms, outside of the National Assembly academics and environmentalists were protesting, and they are opposed to these amendments to the Mining Code, which they claim will harm the environment and the health of those living near the mining projects. The groups that oppose mining code reforms were not allowed entry on Monday to the National Assembly to witness the debates on the reforms. The entrances are closed and are being monitored by riot police of the National Police. In the interior of the country, specifically in Veraguas and Chiriqui there were also demonstrations. In one of these clashes occurred, resulting in several injuries and arrests. (TVN Noticias)
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Injuries and Arrests In Protest Against Mining Code

Gold & MiningSeveral people were injured and arrested as the result of a protest staged by more than a thousand Indians from the Nögbe-Buglé community in the village of Viguí, located on the border between the provinces of Veraguas and Chiriqui, in rejection of the proposed reforms to the Mining Code. Their leader, Fermín Jiménez , said they were protesting peacefully when they were repressed by riot control police, without any justification, in a confrontation in which several people were injured and arrested. "This is not the last protest we will hold because our goal is to repeal Act 277 which amends the Mining Code," he told RPC Radio. He added that they will not withdraw from the area because their protest is peaceful and does not harm anyone. (Panama America)
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Mining reforms take a break until Monday

Gold & MiningThe second debate to reform the Mining Code, which has been met by protests and demonstrations by groups who are opposed to the measure, will be discussed by the full session of the National Assembly starting on Monday, 7 February 2011, after the Deputies approved a break until that date. Yesterday at 4:00 pm, at the regular meeting, members of the Democratic Revolutionary Party and the Popular Party in its minority report maintained their opposition to such reforms, noting that the proposal is not environmentally friendly because it has no items to ensure sustainable development and respect for environmental standards. In the discussions of the first debate, the Mining Chamber of Panama had requested that 5% of the royalties earned from mining activities should be paid into a fund for environmental issues, however that request was ignored by the lawmakers. The Minister of Commerce and Industry (in charge) Ricardo Quijano, justified the measure by noting there are several sources of funding to mitigate environmental damages. During the debate, outside the National Assembly, members of the Sole Union of Construction and Allied Workers (SUNTRACS) staged a 20-minute peaceful protest demanding the withdrawal of the proposed reforms. On Monday, it is expected that the full session of the National Assembly will begin the second debate of this bill. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Once again, the government is going slow, taking their time, and diffusing the resistance to these reforms.

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Reforms To Mining Code Generate Protests in Response

Gold & Mining The approval in the first debate of the bill to reform the Mining Code has lit the fuse of discord and discontent among students, Indians, farmers and environmentalists, who yesterday decided to take to the streets to protest against the project. The first disturbance began at 12 noon, when students from the University of Panama (UP) decided to close Via Transístmica and burning objects on the road in rejection of the reforms to the Mining Code. After half an hour, riot police arrived to the rebels who pushed back the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. The university groups Thought and Action of Labor, Popular Youth Movement, and the Popular University Block barricaded themselves on the grounds of the University of Panama to avoid arrest. The road closure caused a massive traffic jam, The students threatened to continue their protests today.

PROTEST IN SANTIAGO - At that same time, indigenous people and campesinos of the region Ngäbe Bugle and farmers from the province of Veraguas staged a protest against the mining reforms which was supported by the Association of Educators Veragüenses. The demonstrators gathered on the Inter American Highway, near the vehicle overpass, where the road was partially closed for 15 minutes, and then they marched to the headquarters of the Government of Veraguas, where he held a demonstration. Bernardo Jimenez, a district leader, warned that in the coming days as the discussion advances they would call for new protests. "We want to make the government and the deputies of the National Assembly see that the indigenous and campesinos are against all reforms to the Mining Code," he said.

PICKET IN THE ASSEMBLY - Then at 4:00 pm, environmentalists, representatives of the "civil society" and students demonstrated in front of the Palacio Justo Arosemena (National Assembly) closing one lane of the road in protest against the draft bill that is being discussed. "No to mining, yes to life," were among the chants being shouted by the group. Raisa Banfield, and environmental activist, said if the deputies do not stop this reform she would present international legal complaints. The chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Aris de Icaza, yesterday presented the report of the project which was approved in the first debate, and before the full session of the National Assembly, the President of the National Assembly, José Muñoz, said the second debate would start today. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: No surprise, really. The environmental activists tend to be very, very vocal - shrill actually - and they garner much more attention than the numbers of people whose views they actually represent. The government should just calmly explain the math - because the numbers are huge and all good for Panama. Hey, we're only going to strip off the pristine jungle where there's copper underneath - promise. Somebody - quick - send me a "pretty" picture of an open pit copper mine (hint = there aren't any.)

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Mining Reform Bill Slowly Making It's Way Through The System

Gold & Mining The draft law on amendments to the Code of Mineral Resources in Panama now enters its second debate, as confirmed by the the President of the National Assembly, José Muñoz, who added that the discussions could be extended until Monday of next week. Muñoz if he made it clear that he does not intend to discuss this bill on Friday, nor over the weekend, as expected by many groups. Bill 177 will be discussed by the full body of the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: It's almost funny to see how they are going out of their way to take their time on this bill, so that no one can claim that it was "shoved down their throats" or "rammed through the National Assembly" as was done with the controversial Law 30 of last year. I guess they learned their lesson in that respect. So, they are going to go slow, take their time, talk about it a lot, and then pass it anyway. For me, watching these politicians in action is more fun than watching fish in a bowl.

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Mining Reforms Passed in First Debate

Gold & MiningThe members of the Trade Commission of the National Assembly approved on Tuesday, at 7:19 pm, the controversial articles of the Mining Code, with 9 additions and 7 amendments. The lawmakers who voted in favor were Aris De Icaza, the President of the Commission, Raúl Hernández of the de Unión Patriótica political party, Luis Lay and José María Herrera of the Panameñista political party, Jorge Alberto Rosas of Molirena, as well as Rubén Frías and Abraham Martínez of the Cambio Democrático political party. The two voting against where Benicio Robinson and Yassir Purcait of the PRD. The proposal to reform the Mining Code comes amid allegations that there has not been enough time to discuss it, with only one week allocated for consultations. The PRD rejected the reform package last week, while the spokesman for the government says the reforms seek to attract foreign investment. The initiative would allow for the participation in the mining industry of legal entities composed of states or foreign governments "in the contract giving concession to the claim through diplomatic channels." On Wednesday, the report will be submitted to the full Legislature, and it is expected that during the week the second debate will begin. Environmental groups have been calling for a moratorium from the government, which has ignored their requests. (La Estrella)
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Mining Reform Bill Returned To Committee After Public Consultations

Gold & MiningThe Trade Commission of the National Assembly today resumed the first debate of the draft bill to reform the Mining Code, amid complaints about a lack of legislative regulation. PRD lawmaker Yassir Purcait said, and the start of the debates, that following the registration of his colleague Abraham Martinez in the ruling Democratic Change political party, then only he and Benicio Robinson remain on the committee, a situation which violates legal standards which state that there must be at least three (opposition) lawmakers on each committee. In that regard, he requested that another PRD lawmaker be added to the commission, to balance the opinions or otherwise they should cease to hold meetings. "You always need a balance in each of the committees, and that balance is consistent with the representation of each political party," he explained.

For their part, the lawmakers of the ruling majority dismissed Purcait's warnings and proceeded to vote on the agenda. Raul Hernandez, of the Union Patriotica political party and the Vice President of the Trade Commission, said the Regulations do not contemplate a need to balance the committees when one member decides to change political parties during regular sessions. Yesterday, after a long day, the lawmakers only approved the first article of the draft amendments, which open the door to foreign governments investing in local mining activities. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: This morning the former Mayor of Panama City, Juan Carlos Navarro, basically announced that he would be running for president in the 2014 elections, and he said the first thing he would do is repeal the Mining Reform law.

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Amendments to the Mining Code require adjustments, says Cohen

Gold & MiningThe vice president of the National Assembly, Manuel Cohen, told RPC Radio that the draft amendments to the Mining Code require adjustments. Cohen said he has read the Executive's proposal on more than one occasion, which he considers to be good. However, the lawmaker said that after listening to the groups who are both for and against the reforms, the bill needs amendments. Regarding the requests from environmental groups to declare a moratorium on the issue, he said that this is not the solution so the project should be discussed by the 71 deputies of the National Assembly. For four days more than 60 groups expressed their views for or against the bill. (Dia a Dia)
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Public Consultations On Reforms to Mining Code Conclude - Henríquez Highlights Contributions

Gold & MiningThe consultation period on possible amendments to the Code of Mineral Resources of Panama concluded this afternoon, with positions presented from groups who both oppose and support the initiative. Panama's Minister of Trade and Industry, Roberto Henriquez, who came to the National Assembly where the consultations were held, highlighted the participation of the different groups. "There have been positions both for and against ... there has been a balance," he added. "We should emphasize the democratic environment" during this long period of consultations, the minister said. Henríquez said these reforms seek to modernize the Mining Code, and he said they are not being done in order to favor "any particular mining project" in the country. These changes are being presented - according to the Minister - so that there can be the development of "responsible mining" in Panama. "Now it's up to the Deputies (of the National Assembly) to do their job," he said. The debates on Bill Number 277, through which the Mining Code is being reformed, amend Article Article 33 of Law 55 of 1973, and adds Articles to Law 109 of 1973 on on non-metallic minerals, which will be held next week in the Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs of the National Assembly. (La Prensa)

The Trade and Industry Minister Roberto Henriquez, presented the proposal for reform of the Mining Code to the National Assembly

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Indigenous Groups Face Off Over Mining Code Reforms

Gold & MiningAt 11:00 am this morning different groups of indigenous groups who are both for and against the reforms to the Mining Code confronted one another in front of the National Assembly. Some 200 indigenous people who reject the project and who request the withdrawal of the reforms were demonstrating at the entrance to the Assembly. Meanwhile, in the Blue Room the last day of public consultations o the subject were taking place. Then, another group of some 60 indigenous people arrived to demonstrate in favor of the reforms. Tempers began to flare in less than 5 minutes among a group of ngöbes women, who reject the proposed reforms, and they began to insult those who are in favor, and this let to a shoving match, and then to blows. After moments of slaps and shoving amid attempts to burn the banners of those who were in favor, a police officer finally arrived and managed to calm everyone down. Some of the Indians who reject the reforms to the Mining Code say this will bring pollution to waters which feed them and the environment around them. However, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Henriquez Roberto said that communities will benefit. This week the consultation period is expected to conclude and next week the reforms will enter into the third and final debate in the National Assembly. (La Estrella)

Groups of indigenous Ngöbes Indians faced off in confrontations near the Panamanian National Assembly in demonstrations both for and against proposed changes to the Mining Code which would allow for the exploitation of one of the largest copper deposits in the world.

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Protest Over Changes to Mining Code

Gold & MiningA group of people protested today, Wednesday at the Plaza 5 de Mayo, in opposition to the consultations that are being made with regards to the reforms to the Mining Code. The protesters, mostly indigenous, closing the passage of vehicles on the busy road. These people were carrying placards and chanting slogans against the bill, which is being discussed in the National Assembly. At approximately 10:30 a.m. today began the second day of consultations by the Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs of the National Assembly. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: I've made by opinions on this mining bill abundantly clear. I think this copper mine will represent a tremendous economic "plus" for Panama. The companies that want to develop the mine are going to have to spend many billions of dollars - more than the total cost of the expansion of the Panama Canal - in order to bring this mine to production. All of that money is going to be spent here, in Panama, as Foreign Direct Investment. The mine will produce many thousands of jobs during both the development phases as well as the operational phase. I've heard estimates of as many as 40,000 new jobs being created in relation to this project. The mine itself, once it's built and operational, will generate income for Panama in the form of taxes, payments, and royalties. And not just a little money - once again - billions of dollars. This is a massive "good news" story for Panama. And of course a handful of environmental activists will be in opposition, as expected. I predict these reforms will go through and the mine will be built. There's too much money riding on this for anything else to happen.

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National Assembly Tense Over Mining Reform Bill

Gold & MiningThe reforms to the Mining Code seems to have lost some of its momentum after having arrived at the National Assembly. Besides the overwhelming rejection from indigenous groups, environmental organizations and farmers, now the thrust of the proposal is being buffered by the analysis of the Deputies of the National Assembly. The Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Aristides De Icaza, promised that these changes will not meet the same fate as Law 30, saying "the important thing is not speed," and he said they are willing 'to give voice to those who have the right." The situation prompted yesterday afternoon, the convening of a meeting of the members of the Commission who are responsible for these reforms with Trade Minister Roberto Henriquez, in the Presidency of the Republic. The main concern is the article in the proposed bill that allows foreign governments to invest through corporations in mining in the country. Meanwhile, most of the 14 organizations that will speak today on the amendments before the National Assembly say a referendum to decide the issue would be more viable. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: This has to due with the plan to develop the multi-billion dollar copper mine. The part about foreign governments investing should read "Korea." They will talk, they will listen, they will debate, they will take their time, and then they will pass this bill. The numbers on this plan are massive, and they all start and end with $.

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Henríquez says mining project has the backing of the Cabinet

Gold & MiningThe Minister of Trade and Industry, Roberto Henriquez, said the draft amendments to the Mining Code has the support of President Ricardo Martinelli, as well as Vice President Juan Carlos Varela and Minister Guillermo Ferrufino. In this way Henríquez clarified that the approval of the Cabinet does not bear their signatures simply because those officials did not attend the meeting, not because they disagree with or don't support the proposals. Henriquez again defended the proposal to amend the mining laws in Panama, and he repeated that they are incorporating environmental norms that were not included when the original code was written in 1963, when environmental considerations were not so important. "We're compelling the mining companies to respect the environment, because we are convinced that environmental concerns and mining are not contradictory," Henriquez said when speaking to the channel 13 Telemetro morning news broadcast. In that sense he said if mining is carried out properly using the proper technology and proper supervision, then it is compatible with the environment. He explained they are also are increasing fines, royalties, fees and charges for the community and the state would receive more revenue from these industries. (Panama America)

Roberto Henriquez, Panama's Minister of Commerce and Industry

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MCI: ANAM decisions are binding on mining issues

Gold & MiningDespite the rejection from some sectors, including some communities that would be affected by mining, two officials from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Zahadia Barrera, of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and Advisor Manuel Nunez, tried to justify amendments to the Mining Code when speaking to the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast. They explained that the changes to the mining code seek to legally establish the obligation that all mining companies present an environmental impact study, to obtain permission from the National Environment Authority. Nunez said the intention is to make it so that ANAM's decisions are binding. He said the current Mining Code does not contemplate the environmental impact study as a formal requirement, but they were demanding it. Nunez said they also intend to make it so that the MICI cannot grant the concession if it is rejected by the ANAM, and the contract will be cancelled if it is already ongoing. Nunez guaranteed that although that is not covered by the Mining Code, there have not been many mining contracts that have been approved which meet the requirements.

For her part, Barrera said the reform the Mining Code also seeks to change the municipal taxes and royalties charged to mining companies. She spoke of increases in royalties from 2 to 4 percent. She argued that the changes are significant because the Government has the intention that in those regions where mining projects are to be undertaken, the community will feel the positive economic impact of such activity. They argued further that with the reforms the consultations with the people will be respected. The MICI advisor said with the current mining code public consultations are binding. In the case of metal mining, the community can make their considerations within 20 days, while in non-metallic mines, such as those relating to the extraction of stones, within 60 days after disclosure. (TVN Noticias)

Editor's Comment: All of this talk about modifications to the mining code have to do with one thing - copper. There is a massive, multi-billion dollar copper mine that is going to get the green light, and there's a specific checklist of things that have to take place first. This reform to the mining code is one of them. And as usual, the answer will be in the form of money. The local communities are going to be bought off with a whole bunch of cash, promises of schools, clinics, roads, infrastructure, jobs, opportunities - in short a better life. To put things in prospective - it will cost more money just to build this mine and to bring it to an operational status than it cost to expand the Panama Canal. This is a massive project which makes the Petaquilla gold mine look like chump change. I think I said it about five or six years ago - the real money is in the copper. And oh year, sure - environment, community consultations, whatever - it's going to happen, no matter what. Everything that goes on from here to there is just window dressing.

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