Panamanian environmental groups have accused the government of selling out to mining interests.
Manuel Joao, CEO of Petaquilla Minerals which owns Petaquilla Gold, has announced to shareholders that the company is ready to start production after settling differences with the government.
"It is a historic milestone for the company, as well as for the mining industry of Panama," he said. "We have achieved commercial production from our Molejón gold mine.”
Yaritza Espinoza, Coordinator of the Ecological Association of Panama, said that the government has put the interests of a transnational corporation over that of the Panamanian people.
The mine is situated in a forested area in the District of Donoso, in Colón.
Alida Spadafora, President of the National Association for the Conservation of Nature, said the government has not considered the potential damage that could occur at the mine and criticized the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for giving permission to Petaquilla Gold without it having complied fully with new requirements imposed by the national environment authority ANAM.
The conditions included the payment of two bonds totaling $14.3 million.
Javier Arias, administrator of ANAM said that the company has, posted the bonds and has presented nine environmental impact studies for the project.
Minister of Trade and Industry, Roberto Henríquez said the government has won a large number of concessions from the company that will both protect the environment and benefit the country.
ANAM and Petaquilla Gold are awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court on an appeal by Petaquila against $1.9 million fine levied on the company for causing environmental damage.