Presidential approval of mining damage

The following extracts are taken from: Eric Jackson (13 December 2008) ‘ANAM approves Petaquilla gold mine, people downstream are flooded out’, The Panama News,

On November 26, about a dozen families in Nueva Lucha de Petaquilla, a Ngobe village down the Petaquilla River from Richard Fifer’s Molejon strip mine, were coping as best they could, on their own since the village was flooded out three days over when the Petaquilla River overflowed its banks. These people moved into harm’s way when men from Richard Fifer’s Petaquilla Minerals came and burned their old houses on higher ground, and help became more remote when this same company destroyed the roads and trails of traditional access to the riverside village and put up a gate to exclude environmentalists, reporters and Liberation Theology religious folks from a vast section of northern Cocle and western Colon provinces.

When Nueva Lucha was flooded, the community sent Merardo Morales and Martín Rodríguez out on foot to summon help. Two days later, after fording several dangerously swollen streams, Morales reached Coclesito and Rodríguez arrived at La Pintada.

There would be no presidential visits, there was no Panamanian government request for US military help … President Torrijos has for years, even when Fifer was a fugitive from embezzlement charges, even when Fifer was openly defying the nation’s environmental laws, supported Fifer’s gold mine project. …

Meanwhile in Panama City, as the people of Nueva Lucha awaited help, … and a week after the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) had fined Fifer’s Petaquilla Gold $1 million for starting the Molejon gold mine without an environmental permit and assessed it $934,694 in damages for the deforestation caused by its road and strip mine site, ANAM director Ligia Castro had a political statement to make. She approved an environmental permit for the gold mine. …

The permit granted by ANAM’s acceptance of Petaquilla Gold’s environmental impact statement requires the company to post two bonds, in the amount of $14,374,000 to cover future environmental damage. It doesn’t appear that driving people in western Colon province from their homes, either directly by sending in goons to burn their houses or slightly less directly by ruining water supplies or fisheries upon which they depend or by increasing the risk of flooding by destroying the ability of ecosystems to retain water, are among the damages that the Torrijos administration would have the company cover.