Statement from the Panamanian Union of Small Farmers on the Mining Contract with First Quantum Minerals

Panamanian Union of Small Farmers (Unión Campesina de Panamá - UCP)

Read the original statement in Spanish.

Contract between Minera Panama and the PRD-Molirena Government

Greed and the Mining Hub: The Pandemic that Threatens Our Territories and Natural Resources

In the face of the “negotiations” between the national government led by President Nito Cortizo and Minera Panama, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, on the “Concession Contract”, The Panamanian Union of Small Farmers (UCP) and all its member organizations express the following to the citizens of Panama.

In agreement with the cross-sector of civil society actors who have already spoken out on this matter, we denounce the national government for having acted in violation of a SUPREME COURT OF JUSTICE ruling, which declared null and void the CONCESSION CONTRACT granted to Minera Panama more than 20 years ago. It is clear that no contract exists and therefore should not be renegotiated. What is behind this beast are the particular interests of certain government actors, like Vice President José Gaby Carrizo, who represents the interests of Minera Panamá and who was also legal advisor to the company.

The country, which has yet to overcome the serious COVID-19 health pandemic, is now facing another national pandemic – the renegotiation and renewal of mining concessions, which threaten social stability, environmental security, and the land rights of many small farmer and Indigenous communities adjacent to these concessions. The country will have to contend with industrial mining on public lands for more than 40 years, putting at risk the sovereignty and legal guarantees of all Panamanians. 

Neither handouts nor royalties will solve the serious economic, social and environmental crisis that the country is facing. The government, through its hypocritical doublespeak, has tried to paint itself before the international community as a protector of environmental policies and called for greater international investment; yet it freely grants to mining companies territories which hold the natural and ecological wealth of the country. For over 40 years, these territories will be exposed to chemicals and waste that will remain there forever. Such harm cannot be undone even with all of the wealth that the mining company may generate. This is typical of savage capitalism, as Pope Francis has characterized it. 

The people of Panama have had to learn about this business deal through the mainstream media, who already serve the powerful. But no one knows the real content of what was negotiated or, better said, what the mining company has imposed on us through the government, a coalition of the PRD and MORILENA parties. The company has tried to trick us with the famous ‘millions in royalties and taxes,’ which is better understood as a robbery of the people of Panama. The company tries to make us believe that through the money they steal from us, they’re contributing to the wealth in the country. The true content of this contract and its secrecy will be revealed when the harms start to add up.

The people of Panama know very little about the contents of this deal, but we’ve seen how the ruling political elite (the party-ocracy) – who only answer to those who finance their electoral campaigns – keep silent and, on the contrary, give their support to this imposition. As a result, we cannot expect that the corrupt national assembly of congresspeople, who only serve the economic interests of the powerful, would reject such a business deal, especially when the assembly is subject to the Executive’s commitments. 

We warn the people of Panama that with the expansion of Minera Panama and the renewal of other mining licenses in the country, we will face environmental and ecological tragedies so far unseen and for which we are not prepared – evidence of which is what happened not only in Petaquilla, but also with Minera Santa Rosa in Cañazas and Minera Remance in San Francisco, in the province of Veraguas. In these instances, no one was held responsible. On the contrary, the PRD government at the time tried to cover up for the companies, given that high-ranking officials were contracted by these same companies.

From this moment on, we hold responsible NITO CORTIZO, JOSE GABRIEL CARRIZO and RAMON MARTINEZ (Minister for Business and Industry) for the environmental harms that will be caused to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, for the contamination of potable water, for the harms to society and to the health of the families who live in the communities surrounding these projects. 

The present and the future of this country cannot be subject to the interests of transnational companies or foreign businesses who, unsatisfied with just destroying our natural resources and stealing our wealth, now are attempting to impose themselves on our sovereignty. That’s why we request that the national government of Panama establish a roundtable where we can discuss, on the basis of national interest, this project and others that negatively impact the present and future of this country.

Faced with this maelstrom of anti-national interests, there is only one way out for the people of Panama – a fully-empowered PEOPLE-LED CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY, to sweep away the filth that governs us at the service of national and international economic interests, and to establish a new country based on human development, in the national interest and in the interest of the majority of the people of Panama.

We call on small farmers, Indigenous peoples, community organizations, environmentalists, churches, and other related sectors, to unite forces to redirect the national movement towards a movement for life, given that with the renewal and renegotiation of mining contracts, we are facing the destruction of our territories and of our natural resources, which will mean the end of our lives. 

Issued in the community of Santiago, Veraguas province on January 20, 2022




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