The controversial Petaquilla mining concession is located in the Donoso district in the north-central provinces of Coclé and Colón, covering an area of 13,600 hectares.
In 1997 the Panamanian government granted a concession for gold and copper mining to the company Minera Petaquilla, S.A. Two separate mining projects are being developed with Panamanian and Canadian investment – an open-pit gold mine, and one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world.
The fierce opposition to the Petaquilla mining project from civil society groups and local communities stands in stark contrast to the company’s declarations of self-praise – see Below. The benefits in terms of a limited number of low-paid jobs seem scant, when compared to the environmental costs, including the contamination of their water supply, and the loss of land and forest cover. The anti-mining movement in Panama has been gaining momentum and there have been numerous protests against the Petaquilla mines. Protests in May 2009 blocked access to both mines for two weeks.
Conservationists point to the devastating and irreversible environmental impacts on the region, which is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Concerns include the building of access roads in a remote area of high biodiversity, destruction of primary forest, and siltation and pollution of rivers.
In August 2008, the NGO Sustainable Harvest International declined funding from Petaquilla Copper Ltd to undertake sustainable development programs with communities in the region. The proposed collaboration was deemed irreconcilable with their commitment to conservation. Their president Florence Reed stated:
Even if Petaquilla were truly committed to full mitigation and remediation, this mining venture will result in a legacy of environmental and social disruption because of the immense area that will be deforested and the number of local indigenous communities that will be displaced.
MiningWatch Canada, November 2008, ‘Important information about the Petaquilla mining project in Panama’, http://www.miningwatch.ca/updir/Petaquilla_background.pdf (Accessed 5 August 2009).
MiningWatch Canada, January 2009, ‘Panamanian rainforest communities threatened by mining’, http://www.miningwatch.ca/index.php?/Panama/Petaquilla_alert (Accessed 5 August 2009).
 Sustainable Harvest International, August 2008 http://www.sustainableharvest.org/PR82008.cfm (accessed 5 August 2009)