MAC: Mines and Communities

Inmet's Panama Copper project raises concerns among activists

Published by MAC on 2010-12-21

This introduction is a commented summary, by a MAC editor, of the Spanish language analysis written by the National Front for the Defence of Economic and Social Rights of Panama, FRENADESO. [for Spanish article click below] 

The analysis itself comments an environmental impact assessment (ESIA) for the Panama Copper project of Panama Mining S.A., a fully owned subsidiary of Toronto-based INMET Mining Corporation.

This 5,600 hectare copper, gold and molybdenum venture lies in the middle of tropical rainforest in the district of Donoso, province of Colón and is anticipated to have a "lifetime" of thirty years or more.

FRENADESO raises serious concerns about the lack of consultation of affected indigenous communities. A public forum was held on November 26th, but FRENADESO observes that local communities were given little time to analyze INMET's 14,679 page study, which contains a lot of technical material.

Even the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) itself acknowledges that it lacks the capacity to properly assess INMET's environmental impact assessment, and it plans to hire a consultant to carry out an evaluation of the study on its behalf.

The Panamanian press reports that INMET is donating 800,000 balboas (roughly equivalent to $800,000 USD) for this purpose. It is anticipated that a Chilean consulting firm, SustentaRSE, will be hired.

SustentaRSE Project Director, Juan Carlos Urquidi Fell, is a member of the environmental commission of the Confederation of Production and Trade (CPC) in Chile, which brings together all of Chile's business sectors including the National Mining Society and has previously provided legal representation for oil and mining firms in Chile.

FRENADESO also mentions that INMET will not be obliged to pay any tax on revenues for the first ten years based upon a contract signed in 1997.

They worry that, if the price of copper drops, the company will have little incentive to continue mining once its initial investment is recovered. Over the estimated thirty year life of the mine, they say, the company estimates that it and its shareholders will walk away with 89% of potential earnings leaving little behind.

The civil society group cites additional impacts on Ngöbe and Bulgé indigenous communities who - though living off-reserve - will be most directly impacted by the project. The project will require that some people be displaced.

The National Front also raises doubt about the company's promise to return nearly 6,000 hectares of mostly primary forest to its original or nearly original state. It is concerned about lack of detail regarding projected water consumption, impact on groundwater, the burning of fossil fuels, and potential impacts on biodiversity.



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