By Sylvia Ubal
All open pit mining uses a technique that leads to the destruction and depletion of the planet's ecosystems. The elimination of the forest cover, the destruction of the soil, the contamination of surface and groundwater, the division in communities, the bribery of officials, threats, blackmail and the violation of laws and rights are part of the actions. routines with which open pit mining is developed in many parts of the world.
Transnationals pollute the ecosystem in Panama
Minera Petaquilla (today called Minera Panamá) develops its activities in Molejón, in the district of Donoso, province of Colón in Panama. Its President and Executive Director Richard Fifec of Petaquilla Minerals Ltd. and the Canadian companies Teck Cominco and Inmet Mining, Stratego Communications (the “company that handles the public relations of Minera Panamá”) are key in this project of exploration and exploitation of metallic mining open sky.
All open-pit mining, as in the case of Minera Petaquilla, uses a technique that leads to the destruction and depletion of the planet's ecosystems. The elimination of the forest cover, the destruction of the soil, the contamination of surface and groundwater, the division in communities, the bribery of officials, threats, blackmail and the violation of laws and rights are part of the actions. routines with which open pit mining is developed in many parts of the world.
The contamination of the waters has caused anxiety in the communities that, overnight, have seen all their living conditions deteriorate. The intruders of Minera Petaquilla have not respected either the laws or the basic rights of the people who live there.
The complaints filed with the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) and with the Canadian Embassy in Panama by members of indigenous and peasant communities in the area are extremely serious, placing the promoters and investors of Minera Petaquilla as those primarily responsible for the disaster. environmental and human that is being caused in the area.
ANAM sanctioned the company with one million 934 thousand 694 dollars. Of this figure, one million dollars corresponds to a fine, and the rest to the payment of environmental compensation for damage to the ecosystem.
According to the ANAM resolution, by which it issues the sanction, the Petaquilla Gold company affected areas of Cerro Petaquilla and the Molejones, San Juan and Turbe rivers. Impacts include the felling of more than 50 hectares of trees and the extraction of non-metallic minerals.
All this without the application of mitigation measures, which caused environmental damage such as soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and deterioration of water quality, says the resolution
Day on which (ANAM) approves the project
Last Friday, November 28, was the day that the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) approved the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) of Petaquilla Gold (by Richard Fifer, Julio Benedetti and others). This company did not have an Environmental Impact Study, nor prospects for immediate approval, nor were the affected communities consulted, and even less obtained their approval, as required by law. Were the legal requirements of the EIA approved?
A few days before, the same ANAM had fined and decreed a sanction of two million balboas against Petaquilla Gold, precisely for lacking an Environmental Impact Study and having devastated the ecological system of the area, inserted in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. The ANAM, together with the fine, decreed the suspension of all the companies integrated to Minera Petaquilla or Minera Panama.
Petaquilla Gold had not paid the fine and sanction when the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) was approved, as it also ignored the suspension order and continued to work, in mockery of ANAM and as an affront and challenge to the communities. indigenous and peasant women.
The contradictory and unethical attitude of the government cannot be explained except in the presence of deep corruption at the highest levels of the State that favors transnational foreign companies, such conduct demonstrates the extent to which President Martín Torrijos and Ligia Castro, administrator of ANAM , are willing to go against the communities in a clear demonstration that no rule of law prevails in Panama and that the law has become one more commodity, where the profit motive is capable of legalizing the most heinous crimes ecological and against humanity.
Alliance of Powers
The Church is immersed in society and cannot escape its contradictions, nor the class struggle that has actually established the economic, political and religious powers in the country. The phonies in the Church, as in the country, have managed to consolidate select leaderships that unite and strengthen each other to maintain privileges, concentrate wealth and accumulate power.
The triangulation of cooperation, alliances and relationship established between Stratego Communications, the Universidad Santa María la Antigua Catholic company and Minera Panamá is an example of another strategy ... the strategy of subjugation, persecution and cutting of heads to maintain the status of privilege, exploitation , accumulation and concentration of wealth that so satisfies the church, and the miners of the transnationals
While Stratego Communications does the public relations of Minera Panama, and strengthens cooperation agreements with the Universidad Santa María la Antigua, a Catholic company. (USMA) dedicated to the business of higher education, this curious relationship that mixes MINING, ADVERTISING and EDUCATION sheds light on behaviors and events that take place in the country, and we also see the role that the church is playing to favor the mining company.
Benancio Hernández, member of the Ecclesial Base Communities of Panama (CEBs), thinks about the triangular relationships between ADVERTISING, EDUCATION AND MINING that “part of the great dirt on the pastoral management that the church is imposing on the communities in the area where it operates Minera Petaquilla And that the Bishop of Colón put a strong hand to prohibit speaking as a Church on this issue, and above all, that the peasants who encourage the life of faith in the communities get involved in these struggles. We are facing a repression of the truth, that is why the word of the Master Jesus is wise when he tells us: It is inevitable that there will be scandal; but woe to the one who provokes them! They want to silence the victims and the shepherds in sheep's clothing join the oppressors to suppress the voice of truth. They have already done so throughout our organized struggle, and within the Base Ecclesial Communities. But it is inevitable, the voice of God cannot be silenced. "
The great floods ecological disaster
But this Sunday, November 30, the leader Tomás Garay, from that community, after walking and swimming, crossing swollen rivers, for two days to reach Coclesito, to the first and only public solar energy telephone within a radius of tens of miles, to report on the desperate situation that indigenous communities are experiencing near the Palmilla River, adds to the despair of the indigenous community of Nueva Lucha de Petaquilla, who were victims of the floods caused by the Petaquilla River and devastated 8 houses, leaving dozens of victims. Merardo Morales and Martín Rodríguez arrived from Nueva Lucha to Coclesito, who, like Tomás Garay, risked their lives to bring the news of their communities
Both the Río Palmilla and Nueva Lucha communities are without clothes, without food and without water, since both rivers have been vandalized by Petaquilla Gold and the Canadian companies Teckcominco and Inmet Mining during the gold and copper exploration phase. The waters of both rivers descend muddy, a distinctive sign of erosion in their headwaters and banks, produced by logging, clearing of gallery forests and the destruction of hills, mountains and rivers by companies.
The floods in the aforementioned communities are more serious than those that occurred in Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí because in Petaquilla companies have made excavations and drilling in the headwaters and on the banks of the Petaquilla and Palmilla rivers that originate from Cerro Petaquilla and the rains have caused that waters contaminated with cyanide, mercury, and other chemicals and fuel wastes poison all water bodies. In other words, the river waters cannot be used in any way and cannot even be made drinkable as the waters in Bocas del Toro are.
The peasant and indigenous communities went on Tuesday, December 2, to the Canadian embassy in Panama to deliver a letter to the Ambassador with the purpose of expressing their position in relation to the project that the mining company is carrying out on the lands. where they have lived for many years ..
This letter states that, when the mining project did not exist, they could live in poverty but without major concerns because the lands, forests and animals of the mountain, rivers, beaches and seas, added to their own efforts, gave the daily sustenance for their families. They had the essentials to live and continue fighting, with difficulties, but they enjoyed a calm and safe environment and no one was starving or poisoned by drinking water from the river. In their communities, attached to traditional values, they were unaware of family disintegration, maleantry, hit men, alcoholism or drugs. In the case of those who are indigenous, their ancestors lived in Panama centuries before Columbus "discovered them."
But all that has come to an end since the gold exploration work began. Those communities no longer live in peace. Virgin forests and jungles have been deforested, mercilessly logged and mortally wounded. Rivers, streams, springs and groundwater have been destroyed, disappeared and polluted. There is no longer life in the rivers. For all this, Canada's mining presence constitutes an attack on the fundamental right to life.
They have been run over, pressured, threatened and attacked by employees of the mining project. They have demanded that they leave their lands, uproot their communities and take them elsewhere. In fact they have burned and destroyed several ranches in indigenous areas; they have expropriated the lands in different ways, and many of them have had to flee because of the threats that weigh on them. This is an attack against their culture and against their right to life.
The pollution that affects river and marine waters, land and air, has a large part of the population, and especially children, the elderly and pregnant women, with all kinds of health problems, such as dizziness, ulcers, vomiting, without have received care from the health authorities, while the Coclesito health center has no resources to care for its patients, and they have to travel to Penonomé or Panama, sometimes without money for transportation.
According to the newspaper the news, "a mining company based in Canada seeks government consent to contract large-scale copper, gold and silver projects in the eco-sensitive area of Panama." But, as has been stated by Cosecha Sostenible Internacional, in recent unanimous decision of its Board of Directors in the United States: “The CSI Executive Committee unanimously decided that the location of the mine in this biological corridor of Central America makes it very difficult if not impossible to reconcile this mining project with the principles and responsibility of preserving the vital ecosystems. "
According to the founder and president of CSI, Florence Reed, “the location of the mine in Petaquilla within the sensitive ecosystem of the provinces of Coclé and Colón, creates a conflict with the beliefs of CSI. Even if Petaquilla were truly committed to a complete minimization and remediation, the legacy of this project would be a tremendous environmental and social disruption as a vast area would have to be deforested and a large number of local indigenous communities would have to be displaced…. Damages that can be anticipated from this mining project include displacement of local populations, climate change due to deforestation, coral damage, degradation of quality, local water supply, and increased flooding of under-river communities. "
It is clear that Richar Fifer's "Vision" is nothing more than a vision interested in mining exploitation and has nothing to do with the well-being of the people or the development of the country. His is open pit mining with all its cargo and destruction capacity. Business, profit and easy profit are part of the crushing machinery of this industry, also known as the industry of death.
Sylvia Ubal, International Barometer, December 2008