CLOUDS continue to gather over the self-named Father of Panama Mining, Richard Fifer, the disgraced former Governor of Cocle, currently sitting in a cell facing multiple charges of allegedly defrauding the government and workers at his failed Petaquilla gold mine, and a million dollar scam of a Canadian investment group.
The government is also faced with the cost of cleaning up the environmental mess at the mine.
All of which throws into sharp contrast the approach taken by another mining company that is making a near $6 billion investment in Panama and putting in place corporate responsibility plans that involve environmental and social strategies while employing 5,000 workers,80% of them Panamanian, including 1,000 from local communities.
Minera Panama. A subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, recently completed the construction of the port of Punta Rincon and is 35% advanced in building a thermal power and processing plant including the installation of seven mills to grind minerals extracted from the mountains of Donoso, all part of the largest mining work in Latin America expending $5.48 billion of which $2.621 billion has already been spent including taxes paid to the government. That leaves $2.073 billion for the completion of the project that will be operational in 2018, with a life span estimated at between 34 and 40 years.
The port will transport all requirements for the construction of the $600 million power plant and the $500 million processing plant for the shipping of copper concentrate to countries around the world. The plant is estimated to generate about 300 megawatts to supply the mine with the surplus fed into the national grid.. Finally, there is the construction of the mineral processing plant with its seven mills, and primary crushing facilities. From this will flow copper gold, silver, and molybdenum.
Apart from providing ongoing jobs and playing a major role in the Panamanian economy in coming decades, Minera Panama has made impressive steps in seeking to offset environmental concerns with the largest reforestation project in the country by a single company, which will ensure reforestation of 10,475 hectares in and around Cobre Panamá over the life of the mine. More than 1,500 hectares have already been reforested with members of the local community actively involved, gaining both economic and ecological benefits.
The community outreach includes supporting educational and literacy programs within Donoso and La Pintada districts and granting more than 2,000 scholarships, including higher education abroad.
For the third consecutive year , in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment, the University of Panama, Colorado State University, the Park Ranger Association and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) 140 Panamanian park rangers have participated in training course on environmental management of protected areas.
The company has also played a lead role in saving marine animals in danger of extinction including the monitoring and on-site conservation of 23 beaches in Donoso and six beaches in Bocas el Toro, in collaboration with the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
In partnership with the Peregrine Fund, Minera Panamá has also committed to the monitoring and conservation of a Harpy Eagle nest in Donoso – currently with a one -year-old offspring, and 38 nests in Darién – with 8 couples that currently have offspring. A comprehensive environmental education program on this species is also being developed.
Amphibian species threatened by chytrid fungus require special care, and In association with Smithsonian, , Minera has committed to the conservation of four species of amphibians of interest, with the collaboration of the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center
Other initiatives drawing attention from across the world include the on-site conservation of some exotic plant
species intended for the Royal Kew Gardens in London, and the development of a Minera Restoration Center with facilities for a seed bank and a laboratory for micropropagation.
The largest camera monitoring program in the world with 115 cameras placed in the jungle has captured over 16,000 pictures of animals, providing knowledge that will help guide ongoing conservation efforts and infrastructure projects.
Information gained so far has allowed for the establishment of 9 wildlife crossings along the road to the port site, which are monitored by 72 cameras.
A far cry from the financial and environmental quagmire of Petaquilla.