/** pn.alerts: 46.0 **/
** Topic: Panamanian Copper Protest **
** Written 2:35 PM Dec 10, 1996 by gn:minewatch in cdp:pn.alerts **
Minewatch Urgent Action 10th December 1996:

Panamanian copper protest

Six members of the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle people of Panama have been on hunger strike since 26 November in protest against a vast copper development threatening their territory. They and the 126,000 strong community have been campaigning for land rights for the last 23 years. On 13 October 1996 members of the community took part in a 440 kilometre march to the capital, Panama City. This marked the 504th anniversary after the "black day" of the Ngobe-Bugles' first contact with Europe.

Since its discovery in 1932, Cerro Colorado has been known as the one of the world's largest copper deposits. Situated in the west of Panama, in the province of Chiriqui, it allegedly has reserves that could transform it into the 12th largest copper mine in the world, on the same scale as the Ok Tedi and Grasberg deposits in Papua New Guinea.

So far, attempts at drilling have been foiled by local protest, backed by international support. But it was the high price of copper in the 1990s that finally made the mine economically viable. Canadian Tiomin Resources, through its wholly-owned subsidiary PanaCobre, has construction planned for 1998 for a project that could displace 15,000 people and create an annual 27 million tonnes of waste rock alongside 26 million tonnes of acid waste and sulphur dioxide.

The local indigenous Ngobe-Bugle (or Quaymies/Guaymis) have been excluded from the original decision-making process that authorised the mine on 13th February 1996. They are aware of the negative effects that the mine will bring to their communities such as prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse and the loss of their lands. The following statement of the Ngobe-Bugle Congress shows the grassroots feeling to the project:

1. Our people are not opposed to development. What we oppose is activity that detrimentally affects the natural resouces and the local population.

2. The Ngobe-Bugle has spent 22 years negiotating the territorial law (Comarca). We are still waiting.

3. Mineral concessions and the development of Cerro Colorado seem to be more important than the life of more than the 126,000 indigenous people of the provinces of Chiriqui, Veraguas and Bocas del Toro.

4. It is hard for us to imagine the negative environmental, social, cultural and political consequences that will result from the exploitation of Cerro Colorado, in the light of the experiences of other countries where important cultures have been wiped out.

5. We are concerned about the environment of the country and especially of its indigenous regions. We Panamanians witnessed how the San Felix river lost its vitality in the aftermath of the first digging, undertaken by one of the four companies that attempted the mine.

6. In our eyes the Panamanian government and the company Tiomin are flagrantly violating international agreements concerning the rights of indigenous peoples and are creating internal division within the Ngobe-Bugle with actions of sabotage by means of seminars in the communities of Chiriqui. This is an attack on the peaceful coexistence of the region and could result in major conflicts.

We demand the immediate annulation of the Mining Exploitation Contract number 32, between the government and PanaCobre (subsidiary of Tiomin).

The granting of mineral concessions is a serious attack on the conservation of the indigenous territories. It signifies a violation of the fundamental principles of the Panamanian constitution as well as International Labour Organisation Convention 107, article 11, signed by Panama. Both of these recognise the communal land rights of territory traditionally inhabited by indigenous people. We hope that the basic rights of the indigenous people will be respected.

Please send letters of protest to:

Dr. Ernesto Perez Balladares
Panama, Panama 2, Panama
Fax (507) 227-0073

Raul Arango
Ministra de Comercio e Industrias
Apdo. Postal 9658, Zona 4
Panama, Republica de Panama
Fax (507) 227-5604

Raul Montenegro
Ministro de Gobierno y Justicia
Apdo. Postal 1628, Zona 1
Panama, Republica de Panama
Fax (507) 262-7877

Cesar Pardo
Presidente de la Asamblea Legislativa
Apdo. Postal 3346, Zona 4
Panama, Republica de Panama

And a copy to:

Oliver Lennox-King
President, Tiomin Resources, Inc.
1 Toronto St., Suite 709, Box 22
Toronto, Ont. M5C 2V6, Canada
Fax (416) 865-1792

For more information contact:

Congreso General Ngobe-Bugle y Campesino
COONAPIP, Apartado 4473
Zona 5 Panama
Fax (507) 262-8772

Methodist Clubland
54 Camberwell Road
London SE5 0EN
TEL: (44) 171 277 4852
FAX: (44) 171 277 4853
email: minewatch@gn.apc.org

** End of text from cdp:pn.alerts **

*************************************************************************** This material came from PeaceNet, a non-profit progressive networking service. For more information, send a message to peacenet-info@igc.apc.org ***************************************************************************