Impact of the extractive mining model on human rights in Panama

Impact of the extractive mining model on human rights in Panama

In 2011, gold managed to position itself as the country's first export product, with an amount in millions of dollars 33 times greater than that exported in 2007, with an annual percentage change in activity, above the variation in GDP in 10 of the last 14 years. During the 2010-2012 period, an attempt was made to reform the Code of Mineral Resources, through which it was sought to open up mining exploration and exploitation to the participation of foreign States.

That conjuncture caused the worst human rights violations since the times of the military dictatorship that ruled the country until 1989, with known results in the area of ​​the right to life, personal integrity, individual freedom, freedom of expression, peaceful demonstration, judicial guarantees, judicial protection, equality and non-discrimination, among others.

The extractive mining model is not reduced to an economic or technical problem, it is not even exclusively an environmental problem, it is a political and human rights problem.

The extractive mining model is a political problem, its imposition is obviously not a democratic product, since if there is a proven consensus in this country, except for a small group of people organized in the Panama Mining Chamber and other instances of interest exclusively private, is in the inconvenience of developing open-pit metal mining.

In fact, in the recent elections, this consensus was reflected in the proposals for government plans, where the declaration of the country as a territory free of metal mining was proposed, the moratorium that is discussed today in this legislative commission, the strengthening of the institutional framework and environmental legislation and the review of current concessions.

This consensus is not new, since from a participatory space, such as the National Agreement for Development (2007), there was no allusion to the development of the extractive mining model in the country among its results, setting on the contrary, guidelines and objectives not compatible with the development of this activity. More recently, exactly one year ago, that consensus could be observed - despite all the obstacles - in the so-called Dialogue Table for the Responsible Development of Mineral Resources in Panama, organized by the National Center for Cleaner Production and from which We participate in supporting organized communities against the extractive mining model.

The table was sold and continues to be sold as a space for democratic exchange between sectors, but the complaints of bias in the composition of the space were public, in the times granted to the exhibitors, in the evaluation criteria that privileged the economic approach, without consider social and environmental costs, ruling out other approaches as secondary. Only after ensuring almost total control of that space by representatives of sectors related to mining activity, were its organizers able to point out the existence of agreements on accessory matters, never on the axis of the discussion: the need and convenience of imposing the extractive mining model In Panama. It goes without saying that, therefore, the impetus for the development of mining in Panama does not arise from any initiative of popular origin.

All the data indicate that the proposal to implement the extractive mining model in Panama has very limited roots, not linked to any public, social or community interest, closely related to local and transnational private interest, thus resulting in an imposition contrary to the duty to be democratic within the State of Panama.

The extractive mining model is a problem of power and therefore political, it is impossible to depoliticize it.

Any claim not to politicize or depoliticize an issue crossed by power relations in its entirety, starting with the position of the State, the political entity par excellence, as the holder of rights, companies and economic power groups, communities and environmental organizations, it is an attempt to disarticulate and weaken positions against the extractive mining model. In addition, it is necessary to see the problem from the debate on the very concept of development and alternatives to the development model, also from a human rights perspective, giving politics a human rights content, such as guarantees of human dignity and limits to human rights. exercise of power. Considering the aforementioned, the means of democratic resolution of the public problem on the mining extractive model is the declaration of a moratorium on the activity, which allows to broaden the debate, review experiences, and strengthen norms and institutions without the danger of greater effects on the environment. and life.

The extractive mining model is a human rights problem from the conditioned scenario in which the projects are intended to be executed or executed, since they take advantage of the neglect of the State's obligations in terms of economic, social and cultural rights, in addition to inequality in the conditions for the exercise of civil and political rights among different social groups, to promote an image of social responsibility that meets the needs of the population. In this sense, it is false that mining companies develop road infrastructure for communities, make roads for the equipment and personnel of mining companies to transit.

It is false that they attend to the right to health or education of the communities, when what they do is marketing with poverty, tax deductible, polluting the environment and deteriorating in the short, medium and long term the health and living conditions of the community. people.

It is false that they solve the labor problem, when we have witnessed countless conflicts due to disrespect for labor rights by mining companies.

The mining extractive model is a human rights problem in terms of forms or procedures, as the rights to participation in matters of public interest are not fulfilled, both in the elaboration of policies and legislation on the matter, as well as in the existing mechanisms of citizen participation and consultation established through legislation on local governments and environmental regulations, which apart from being weak, non-binding and unfavorable to the interests of community organizations, social movements and environmental civil society, face obstacles, both administratively and judicially, in the right of access to information as a requirement for informed, effective participation under equal conditions.

The mining extractive model is a human rights problem insofar as the substance of the matter, it implies effects on the rights to private property, personal integrity, health, life and a healthy environment, with special effects on the rights of vulnerable groups. , such as children and adolescents, women and indigenous peoples. The violation of civil and political rights exercised by human rights defenders against the model is also frequent.

It is false that the mining extractive model is a factor of economic growth aimed at social development, since “although it is true that States receive taxes for mining exports, these are few in relation to the profits obtained by mining companies, resources that take away from the populations and the multimillion dollar investments that the State will have to make to regenerate the deteriorated conditions that mining exploitation will leave once it decides to leave the country ”. This idea of ​​development goes against the environment, water, health, food, personal integrity and life.

The discourse of exploiting to grow, distribute and combat poverty has proven to be a fallacy without mining, it does not have to be different with it, as it is part of the same economic system in which its actors do not have the purpose of guaranteeing rights, but that of accumulating and reproducing capital. Regarding the importance of the right to a healthy environment, it is necessary to remember that although the theory of human rights is based on principles such as indivisibility and integrality of a set of rights considered of equal hierarchy and importance, it is evident that the environment in general and the Nature in particular constitutes the material basis of all human possibility, economically, politically and culturally. We reiterate then, that neither the conditions, nor the decision-making processes, nor the social, ecological and economic effects of the extractive mining model are democratic products that respect human rights, but rather reflect the existence of deeply asymmetric power relations between companies. mining companies and communities, in which the role of the State cannot be reduced to ensuring property for the exploitation and distribution of benefits according to strictly private interests. That is why we express our support for the moratorium initiative as the first step towards declaring the country as a territory free of open pit metal mining and we ask the Trade and Economic Affairs Commission to respond as representatives elected by the Panamanian population to the majority consensus that exists in the country, against the imposition of the mining extractive model in our territory.

1. Report on Human Rights and Conflict in Central America 2011-2012. Regional Team for Monitoring and Analysis of Human Rights in Central America.

Retrieved October 27, 2014 at * Document presented at the National Assembly of Deputies of Panama. Wednesday October 29, 2014.

By Voces Ecológica Panamá, members of the Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model -M4-.

Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model

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