Successors to Petaquilla gold mine swindle seek vast expansion

cover map
Notice the middle of proposed “Zona 2.” In this renewal and expansion of the Petaquilla Gold scam, the Canadian-registered company whose chief operating officer is of the PRD-connected Duque family wants to explore the possibility of strip mining Coclesito, where PRD founder General Omar Torrijos had his rural retreat. For a larger version of this map of gold exploration concessions sought by Broadway Strategic Minerals Panamá, SA — Minera Broadway — click here.

A breathtaking land grab attempt emerges from the careful information control

by Eric Jackson

Color this rural conflict — one that people in other remote areas of Panama, including in the indigenous comarcas, will be closely following.

The never-profitable as a whole but money generating for a few hustlers Petaquilla Gold project — whose legal representative at one time was none other than current Vice President Gabriel Carrizo — would be revived, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry told us in the middle of this past May. On May 13, we were told that Richard Fifer’s concession was revoked for things like non-payment of Seguro Social withholding for its workers and non-peformance of environmental remediation measures — in general, walking away from this leaking toxic hole in the ground when the money ran out and the Vancouver stock exchange de-listed the company.

Five days later we were told of a Canadian savior approaching the Panamanian government with a proposal to pay off Petaquilla Gold’s past-due obligations and restart gold mining operations.

What we were not told is that the company’s chief operating officer, Fernando E. Duque Cardoze, isn’t some veteran Canadian mining exec but rather the scion of prominent Panamanian families, one member of which was vice president of Panama during the PRD administration of Toro Pérez Balladares.

What we were not told is that preceding the announcement of the “offer” there were a series of meetings with Petaquilla Gold’s erstwhile legal representative, one José Gabriel Carrizo Jaén, now Vice President of Panama Gaby Carrizo, put in charge of economic policy by President Nito Cortizo.

What we were not told is that along with the proposal to restart the gold mine came a series of requests for a vast new expansion of the mining concession. See the map. If granted, there would be 21 communities within the concession and a number of others close enough to be affected. 

If you look up this company, which goes by several names, what they put out does not show an experienced mining company, environmentally friendly or otherwise. Look deeper into the Canadian company and its predecessors and the activities of some of its dignitaries and you find that what they mainly have done is bought mineral concessions near other existing concessions that other people have, and then if successful sold the concessions that they have reserved.

Wasn’t that actually what Richard Fifer did? He got a concession for a huge area of western Colon province and northern Cocle, started digging for gold on a small portion of it, and sold off most of the concession to what, after several changes of ownership, has become the Minera Panama copper mining concession. A lot of money changed hands on stock swindles and the sale of gold ingots, but the operation as a whole never made money. Indeed, before any mining operations began, Fifer went to court to seek immunity from such environmental laws as existed, because he said that those laws would make his mine unprofitable. (He lost that case.)

So, do Fernando E. Duque Cardoze and  José Gabriel Carrizo Jaén really intend to strip mine the historic rural retreat of General Omar Torrijos Herrera? In Colon we witness the ongoing demolition of historic buildings by PRD officials, which frees up the land to be sold or developed by those who hold title, generally more than a generation removed from those who were last able to collect rent on the properties. And if Broadway gets the big mining concession expansion and in turn flips it to some international company that’s actually into the strip mining business? They’re not going to care about the environment, and much less about Panamanian history.

And is there a bigger picture? There always is. Where there have been failed mines in the past, particularly around Cerro Quema in Los Santos, communities in the surrounding areas are mobilizing against new toxic flows coming down from the hills, as in times past. In the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca the blockages of the Pan-American Highway were about roads unrepaired, or promised but never built — this time. But whether it’s allocation of government resources, displacement by dams, the national government interfering in indigenous self-government or whatever, the fear that outsiders intend to strip mine indigenous communities is never far from the surface and adds fury to the protests of the day.

A rural protest against new mining concessions. FRENADESO photo.

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