“Progress:” the abandoned gold mining town of Bodie, California, which would be far more ruined were it not have been incorporated into a state park and partially restored. Photo by velodenz.
Panama’s debt crisis and the metal that drives white men crazy
The bad economy Nito inherited, the COVID epidemic made much worse, and the political patronage machine nature of the PRD made impossible to manage. Now the bill collectors are here, and they are demanding that Panama sell off our water supply, our chances for peace and progress in the indigenous comarcas, our roads, much of our potential for tourism and such respectable standing in the world as we have left.
Nito and Gaby are betting on mining. Not renegotiating the ridiculous pittance we get from the copper mine, but greatly expanding it not only at that same pittance, but structure in a way that it’s not severance tax for each measure of metal extracted but a percentage of profits. Generally that’s after executive pay and perks, lobbying and advertising costs and sundry other overhead expenses are deducted. The country has been down such roads so many times in the past.
What could be more ridiculous?
This gushy announcement out of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI) about this offer that we can’t or shouldn’t refuse, to reopen the Petaquilla gold mine. PLUS, to open a gold an silver ore refinery that will process things not only dug out of that hole, but from other mines. We are reminded of a number of other presently inactive but still on the books mining concessions out there, and it’s suggested we might bring in ore from abroad.
Imagine that. Reactivating Cerro Quema in the Azuero — which almost all of its neighbors hate — and putting ore in heavy trucks to be transported across the Continental Divide to northern Cocle or western Colon province to be refined.
Restoring the broken-up roads? Oh, that’s external to the business. That’s the government’s problem. This is not part of the MICI announcement, but we should not be so naïve as to think that something like that would not be part of the deal.
And hey, there’s the big prize, Cerro Colorado — night in the middle of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca, the source of seven rivers from which the people there drink and catch fish and river shrimp. A mountain that has been ferociously defended, with lives lost, over previous attempts to strip mine it.
Is Venezuela, or Brazil, or Peru, or one of our Central American neighbors, going to ship gold or sliver or to Panama to process for them? With a government with Panama’s reputation? Yeah, yeah, just give it to Zulay — SHE’LL take care of it.
And by the way, with whom do we deal. MICI says Broadway Mineral. So Google them.
Is it THIS company?
Or is it THIS company?
They have, or had, names similar to one another, but neither exactly “Broadway Mineral” as MICI cited.
Might they be one and the same? Perhaps. The one above was from 2019, an obscure gold mining company about to be taken over by pharmaceutical speculators, with name change to follow. The one below seems to be a more recent and incorporated in Panama, with a bunch of petroleum engineers and not a whole lot to indicate that they’re a gold mining company. Should we feel reassured that a couple of guys from the latter say that they’re well experience with doing contracts with the Panamanian government?
(Then, if these companies are NOT one and the same, there is the “mirror companies” caveat. Companies with names similar to other companies coming to do business in Panama are very often fraudulent. The similar name to someone else is a classic warning flag.)
But set aside the who and consider the what. For all of the years of hype, and for all of the millions of dollars worth of gold ingots they say they exported, Petaquilla was not a profitable gold mine. Its business plan was based on scoffing at environmental laws and many of its contractual and legal obligations. The money in the Petaquilla operation was derived from investors lured into delusions of wealth by the concept of “a gold mine” to the extent that they left all hard business judgment behind. There was a lot of insider trading on the delusion. Ask Ricky Martinelli and he wouldn’t give you an honest answer, and his buddy Alejandro Moncada Luna said that insider trading in Panama is legal anyway, so long as not in paper traded on the local Bolsa de Valores. The Panamanian securities market has never really recovered from the scandal.
So, Panama is going to cut down vast stretches of forest, which reduces our fresh water supply, pollute some of what remains of our water with mining wastes, destroy wildlife habitats and diminish migratory bird flyways, and all to pursue some dubious business plans with a dubious partner.
Maybe it’s all on the up-and-up, and there are just questions to be answered.
The overall appearance, however, is that Nito and Gaby are totally desperate with more than three years to go in their five-year term.
Sculpture of Greek actress, singer, resistance leader against the military dictatorship, socialist legislator and minister of culture Melina Mercouri, in Athens. Statue by Anastasios Kratides, photo by Erik Drost.
Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. In South America they throw flowers to you. In Greece Greeks throw themselves.
Bear in mind…
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Old age is the most unexpected of things that can happen to a man.
There is no logical reason why the camel of great art should pass through the needle of mob intelligence.
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