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Panama: The New Conquistadors
A battle is being waged in the rainforests of Panama – between those who want to keep their way of life, and those who want economic growth. At stake: billions worth of precious metals.
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Launched June 14, 2012
Canada is on the frontlines of a new battle in the rainforests of Mesoamerica, and billions of dollars worth of precious metals are at stake.
As the developing countries in Latin America turn to the mining industry to secure their economic futures, Canadian mining companies are eager to expand their claims. Already, they hold about 1,400 mining properties from Mexico to Argentina, bringing to mind for some Latinos images of an old enemy, the Spanish Conquistadors.
One of these properties is in the Colon province of Panama, where a number of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers, backed by a national consortium of environmental groups are trying to stop two Canadian mining companies from developing a gold mine and one of the last known major copper reserves in the world. They are concerned these mines would strip thousands of hectares of rain forest, deplete and contaminate water supplies, and displace the communities that have made the area their home for centuries, including the Ngobe people, Panama’s largest indigenous group.
The mining companies say they have had extensive consultations with locals and there is widespread support for their projects. In addition, they say they are bringing economic development, jobs, and growth to these communities.
The local communities are drawing inspiration from similar fights that took place in Costa Rica, where public pressure led to a ban on open pit mining, and El Salvador, where indigenous people secured a moratorium on mining in part of the country. Both are considered victories against the “Canadian Conquistador,” but have come at a great cost – lives were lost, and considerable damage to the environment had already taken place.
Canadians, in the meantime, are largely oblivious to this new role, still considering themselves peacemakers on the international stage, despite the fact that the Conservative government recently rejected a bill in Parliament that would have made Canadian mining companies more accountable for their activities abroad.
A CBC / Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting collaboration
Grantee
Award-winning journalist Mellissa Fung has been with CBC Television since 2000. As a national correspondent, she has reported a wide range of stories on both Canadian and world affairs, including...
Grantee
Lynn Burgess is a documentary producer with the CBC’s flagship newscast The National, focusing primarily on investigative and foreign journalism. Among her producing credits are “Canada’s...
Region
Central America
Country
Panama
Topics
Culture, Economy, Environment, Human Rights, Politics, Poverty
Subjects
Effect of Human Activities on the Earth
GATEWAYS
Recently​Video​Articles​Audio
August 13, 2012 / CBC News
Canadians Mine Panamanian Riches
MELLISSA FUNG
Local Panamanians have doubts about a giant Canadian-owned copper mine.
July 18, 2012 / PBS NewsHour
In Panama, Locals Protest Canadian Copper Mines
MELLISSA FUNG, LYNN BURGESS
As Canadian mining companies look to exploit vast swaths of the Panamanian rain forest, local protesters and environmental activists fight back.
June 19, 2012 / CBC News
The New Conquistadors: Canadian Miners Search for Gold in Panama
MELLISSA FUNG, LYNN BURGESS
In the 16th century, Spanish explorers arrived in Panama in search of gold, silver and spices. Five hundred years later, it's not the Spaniards, but the Canadians who have come looking for riches.
June 18, 2012 / CBC News
Latin America: Mining in Conflict, an Interactive Map
LYNN BURGESS, MELLISSA FUNG
Are Canadian mining companies the "New Conquistadors" of Latin America? An interactive map shows the the mining conflicts in the region.
June 18, 2012
Mining in Panama: 'The New Conquistadors' Special Interactive Website
JENNIFER MCDONALD
The Pulitzer Center teams up with the CBC to investigate the impact of precious metal mining by Canadian companies on local communities in Panama.
June 18, 2012 / Untold Stories
Panama: The Trek to Nueva Lucha
MELLISSA FUNG, LYNN BURGESS
Mellissa Fung fords rivers, encounters storms, fights mud and choppy waters to reach the indigenous Ngobe village of Nueva Lucha.
June 15, 2012 / Untold Stories
Panama: No to Open Pit Mining
MELLISSA FUNG
The Ngobe, an indigenous people in Panama, are struggling to keep their land out of the hands of Canadian mining interests.
June 15, 2012 / CBC News
Panama: The New Conquistadors Trailer
MELLISSA FUNG, LYNN BURGESS
Precious metals and the rainforest are at stake in a battle between Canadian mining companies and local communities in Panama, a struggle that conjures up images of the Spanish Conquistadors.
June 14, 2012 / Untold Stories
Panama: Campesinos Try to Block Canadian Mining Goliaths
MELLISSA FUNG
Subsistence farmers in Panama turn activist to protect their land and their way of life from two Canadian mining giants that have other designs.
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