In his address to the nation President Cortizo claimed that “The contract with Minera Panamá SA guarantees measures for environmental protection, a closure plan, and labor provisions adjusted to current legislation. The country should receive income of over $400 million, considering the current price of a pound of copper.” Photo by the Presidencia.
The new contract with Minera Panama is unconstitutional and betrays Panama’s responsibility for its biodiversity
by the Movimiento Panamá Vale Más Sin Minería (translation by Eric Jackson)
Environmental and scientific organizations, social movements, trade unions, and human rights and community-based groups reject the announcement of a new contract between the national government and Minera Panamá (formerly Minera Petaquilla). With this act, the national government once again avoids holding public contract bidding and betrays its responsibility to Panamanians with respect to our natural wealth.
The executive branch disregards the Supreme Court of Justice rulilng that declared Minera Panama’s previous contract unconstitutional. It demonstrates once again that this industry will always operate outside of our constitution and the laws — and the fundamental rights that these enshrine. By avoiding a public tender and the competition of the bidders, the maximum benefits for the Panamanian state are not guaranteed.
During the irregular negotiation a “high-level” commission that was never legally constituted was put in charge for the government side. It announced tiny advances in environmental and labor issues that, in short, only force the company to comply with previously acquired commitments or current regulations applicable to all actors in this country’s economy.
As announced, the new contract supposes that the Panamanian State should receive 10 times the average annual contributions that we have come in so far. However, the mere collection of the annually evaded income taxes on legal entities, according to the estimates of the General Directorate of Revenue, would give the country more than 100 times what has been received annually by the mining company so far. The new contract continues to completely ignore the immense natural and cultural wealth that continues to be destroyed in a key protected area for the connectivity of biodiversity throughout the region. There, 295 environmental incidents have been recorded in the last three years according to the company’s own reports. The negotiation also disregards the will of the Panamanian people, who reject open pit metal mining and do not wish to pawn our rivers and forests.
In exchange for the increase in royalties, the company has requested the necessary protections to guarantee its operation, in a clear allusion to the unconstitutionality lawsuit filed by the Center for Environmental Advocacy (CIAM) in 2008.
We denounce this request as an attempt to obstruct citizens’ access to justice in search of the protections of the constitution and the laws.
It becomes appropriate to call upon the legislators, to whom the responsibility now falls – as emphasized by the Supreme Court rulingm — to scrutinize the contract to determine whether or not it is “in accordance with the related legal regulations,” and “even more demanding, given the risks involved in mining activity and the rights and interests at stake….”
The continuation of Minera Panama is also a serious precedent and great concern in the face of the threats of several metal mining projects throughout the country. Such is the case of a new concession of 10,000 hectares in the districts of La Pintada, Omar Torrijos Herrera and Donoso about which the complaints from locals about the non-existence of any consultation were flagrantly ignored; and the illegal extension of the concession contracts for the Cerro Quema project in Azuero, without an approved environmental impact study, and whose operations would cause great damage to vulnerable water sources in that area.
This country’s path to economic recovery, one that leads us to the fair and equitable development that we have never had and that generates decent jobs, unavoidably requires the conservation of the environment. It is time for the government to honor its international commitments, including those related to biodiversity and climate action, and to opt for truly sustainable economic projects, such as investment in low-emission public infrastructure, agricultural development for food security and sovereignty, ecological tourism and new renewable energy sources, among others.
Panama is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. This diversity, on a daily and sustainable basis, produces a wide range of environmental services and goods that benefit millions, including the production of water that’s safe to drink and for irrigation and electricity generation, pure air, pollination, firewood production, natural medicines, timber, food and climatic stability. The Movimiento Panamá Vale Más Sin Minería, which has continued to add members from across the country since its formation this past August, is committed to maintaining these goods and services, as well as the quality of life they bring to present and future generations. We invite all social actors to demand the same commitment from the national government, beginning with the approval of the moratorium on metal mining committed to in the Bicentennial Pact. In this way, the constitutional duty of the state and all the inhabitants to promote social and economic development that prevents environmental pollution, maintains the ecological balance and avoids the destruction of ecosystems will finally be fulfilled.
Movimiento Panamá Vale Más Sin Minería
January 19, 2022
1. ADOPTA Bosque
2. Amigos del Parque Nacional Santa Fe (AMIPARQUE)
3. Amigos del Parque Internacional La Amistad (AMIPILA)
4. Asociación de Profesores de la República de Panamá (ASOPROF)
5. Asociación de Educadores Veragüense (AEVE)
6. Sindicato de Educadores Democráticos de Panamá / Poder Ciudadano
7. Centro de Capacitación Social
8. Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM)
9. Coalición Internacional de Mujeres y Familias (CIMUF)
10. Colectivo Voces Ecológicas (COVEC)
11. Colegio de Biólogos de Panamá (COBIOPA)
12. Colegio de Sociología y Ciencias Sociales de Panamá
13. Consejo Consultivo de la Cuenca / Jóvenes por el Ambiente y la Cuenca del Canal
14. Coordinadora para la Defensa de Tierras y Aguas de Coclé (CODETAC)
15. Coordinadora por la Defensa de los Recursos Naturales y Derechos del Pueblo Ngäbe Buglé y Campesino
16. Cuidemos a Panamá
17. Escuela de Biología, UP CRU Coclé
18. Fundación Cerro Cara Iguana
19. Fundación para el Desarrollo Integral Comunitario y Conservación de los Ecosistemas de Panamá (FUNDICCEP) / Red Nacional en Defensa del Agua
20. Fundación para la Protección del Mar (PROMAR)
21. Fundación Pro-Conservación de los Primates Panameños (FCPP)
22. Fundación San José Verde (FUSAVE)
23. Frente Santeño contra la Minería
24. Guardianes del Río Cobre OBC
25. La Nueve / Red Nacional en Defensa del Agua
26. Masa Crítica – Antónima
27. Movimiento Democrático Popular (MDP)
28. Movimiento MiMar
29. Movimiento Pro Rescate de AECHI
30. Movimiento Victoriano Lorenzo
31. Observatorio Panameño de Ambiente y Sociedad (OBPAS)
32. Poder Ciudadano
33. Red Nacional en Defensa del Agua
34. Sociedad Audubon de Panamá
35. Sociedad Panameña de Salud Pública (SPSP)
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