AMERICA/PANAMA - No amount of money can compensate for the damage that mining can cause

Friday, 12 May 2023

Panama (Agenzia Fides) - "Metal mining is neither feasible nor sustainable in a country with the water and biodiversity richness and climate vulnerability of Panama. This is proven by many international and national studies. Our Bishops have confirmed it: there is no amount of money in the world that can compensate for the damage that mining can cause in the short, medium and long term". This was stated in an urgent statement by the Mesoamerican Ecological Ecclesial Network (Remam), Panama section, signed by 13 Catholic organisations and five religious congregations, including the Social Pastoral-Caritas, the Justice and Peace Commission, the Indigenous Pastoral, the Santa Maria la Antigua University...
"Founded on the Gospel, the Social Doctrine of the Church and the word of Pope Francis," the signatories write, "we have analysed the new contract of the Panamanian State with Minera Panama and the mining reality of our country itself," for which they express their deep concern for several reasons. First of all, the area of the mining concession, 17,780.38 hectares, is located "at the center of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and the Donoso Protected Area, which contradicts our legal system". The contract also provides that the company can "acquire, contract out or have in usufruct land belonging to the State or private owners, without limits". The State undertakes to expropriate the land needed to extend the concession, without compensation.
Other critical aspects analyzed concern the minimum guaranteed income paid by the mining company to the State, which is 375 million dollars: "it is very relative as it can decrease for many reasons", including the drop in the price of copper on the market, which "does not constitute a real guarantee". The contract also provides for "special" labour rules that may provide for lower wages than in the rest of the country, in violation of labour Code regulations. There will also be reductions in water sources, for which the people living along the rivers will suffer.
"As citizens of this country and as Christians who defend life - write the signatories of the document -we want to show our faith with our works, which is why we cannot endorse a contract of this kind which, moreover, contains contradictions with our environmental and constitutional legislation". Therefore, they invite Parliament to "a serious and profound reflection, in order not to accept the signing of this contract, which seriously damages, not only our sovereignty, but also the future of the Panamanian people and our common Home" .
All Christians, universities, environmental organizations and others are invited to "propose a staggered closure of mining exploitation, with reasonable deadlines, in accordance with legal norms and international agreements, and with the possibility of a social audit for due transparency and compliance". All Panamanian citizens are then invited to give life to an "ecological citizenship", as advocated by the encyclical Laudato Sì, for the care of the environment and the protection of God's work. Finally, they ask the Bishops and other organizations and groups interested in the future of Panama, to evaluate a pronouncement "on the urgent need to save our common Home from an environmental disaster of catastrophic dimensions". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 12/5/2023)