Civil society of Panama reiterates questions about the mining contract | News

Civil society of Panama reiterates questions about the mining contract
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Sectors of civil society in Panama continued to express their rejection of the contract signed last March between the Government of that Central American country and Minera Panamá, a subsidiary of the Canadian multinational Firts Quantum Minerals, due to the irregularities of the document, which if approved would have a validity of more than 40 years, as well as the process to debate it with society.


They demand that the Panamanian State review the mining contract

In the midst of mobilizations against the text, called by labor, teacher, environmentalist and indigenous organizations, the hearings organized by Parliament continue to collect criteria among the communities of Colón and Coclé (center), provinces where mining has had impacts.

In the opinion of the lawyer expert in mining and arbitration issues, Guillermo Cochez, bill 1043 is harmful to the interests of the country due to concessions that would be granted to the mining company and that he considers illegal and unconstitutional.

Among them he mentioned the authorization for the mining company to build a port, with services that would be charged and from which the State would not benefit; facilities to produce energy, whose surpluses they will be able to sell and will not deliver to the communities, and even the prohibition to enter the mine's airspace up to 3,000 meters.

Cochez said that the new contract gives the mining company the power to acquire land and expropriate it if the owners do not want to sell it. He recalled that for years the activities of this company have destroyed peasant and indigenous communities and expropriated lands that belonged to them.

He questioned whether the mining company defended the environmental impact study that was part of the previous contract, which was declared unconstitutional in 1997 by the Supreme Court of Justice. He stressed that the company has to do a new study, but has looked for a way to avoid it.

The jurist considered that if protests escalate and the State is forced to withdraw the contract, there would be major consequences, although he ruled out Minera Panamá suing Panama or suspending its operations.

He assured that, being a new contract, the Government of Laurentino Cortizo should have carried out a tender or, otherwise, request a bidding exception, which did not happen, he said.

He explained that this mining company has had a presence in the country for three governments. He stressed that he is not suggesting that she leave, but rather that the contract be renegotiated and the State be paid according to the benefits that she receives. He clarified that First Quantum Minerals' operations in Panama are so profitable that their income offsets significant losses they face in other countries.

He denounced that said company is going to pay 395 million dollars in debts to the State, but is avoiding paying another 800 million that are owed for 2021 and 2022, when there was no contract.

For his part, Franciscan friar René Flores, member of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria parish, La Pintada district, Coclé province, told local media that there was no consultation with the communities and there is concern about the impact of the mining concessions. in people's living conditions.

He estimated that the Government has not been transparent, it has not reached out to the communities to explain the ins and outs of Bill 1043 and its Ministries of Environment or Health have not reported on the damage to water or the health of mining workers.

Flores recalled the encyclical Laudato si', by Pope Francis, on environmental care and considered that the type of extractivism carried out in Panama is contrary to the ideas promoted by the Vatican. He announced that they will support the communities' rejection of the contract.

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