|Gold in them there hills|
|Friday, 18 May 2012 15:47|
According to recent reports, exploratory drilling in the northeastern mountains of Haiti has discovered gold, and traces of silver and copper. Estimates on these precious metals have been placed as high as $20 billion.
Based on the exploration to date, geologists estimate at least one million ounces of gold at two sites in Haiti, between 20 million and 30 million ounces of silver, and more than one million tons of copper.
Stegan Altidore, a Haitian geology student in Miami said he always believed Haiti had "liberal deposits of gold, other precious metals, and possible even oil in the hills, based upon the geological structure of the mountains in Hispaniola."
He fears however that because the Haitian government lacks the financial resources to conduct their own exploration, foreign private enterprises could move in and exploit the industry for their own benefit.
Confirming these concerns, U.S. and Canadian investors, in association with Haitian engineers, have been leading the explorations in Haiti at a reported cost of $30 million, with actual mining possibly beginning in five years.
This is not the first time that gold and other precious metals have been discovered in Haiti. UN geologists identified significant portions of gold and copper in the 1970s. Potential investors however were discouraged by the country's frequent political instability to explore.
Ironically however, after the 2010 earthquake, a Canadian exploration firm acquired all of the shares of a Haitian firm holding full permits to explore lands in Haiti's northeast region. As geologist Altidore points out, the same "aggressive movements" of the plates that causes tragic events like the 2010 earthquake also creates precious metals.
Mining company SOMINE is currently the only company that has full concessions to mine, receiving permission from former President Rene Preval in 1996, under the condition that the firm hires Haitians whenever possible. In exchange for minimal permit fees, SOMINE wascommitted to spend $2.25 million in the first two years, and an additional $1.8 million after a feasibility study.
Newly minted Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, has begun drafting new legislation to secure and expand Haiti's potential benefits from this new mining discovery, including establishing procedures for collecting royalties and environmental regulations to protect the public.
The most important thing is to have the correct mining law," said Lamothe. "It ensures that the right portion comes to the state. It ensures that the people living in the region where the mines are, that their rights are protected. It ensures environmental protection."
The news however, despite concerns of exploitation, has buoyed hopes in Haiti
"The Lord is good. He couldn't have designed this beautiful country for its people to suffer forever," says Port-au-Prince banker, Jacques. "Maybe this is the factor that will become the basis for a modern Haiti to rival other nations in the west."