Panama, like its Central American neighbors, is home to many natural wonders and valuable resources. However, in recent years many local people have begun to question the work of Canadian companies who have come to the country to mine precious metals like gold and copper.
Environmental activists and everyday local citizens in Panama have reported instances where pollution from Canadian gold mines has created dangerous living conditions for the people living downstream. They say that during heavy rainfall, toxins from the mines are swept into rivers, killing fish and making the water hazardous.
Now, another Canadian mining company has plans to build one of the world's largest copper mines in a sensitive part of the Panamanian rainforest. In response, Panamanians have taken to peacefully protesting the building project by voicing their grievances and building makeshift roadblocks to prevent mine construction. The mining company has in turn tried to make the project more beneficial for the locals by offering to build schools and health clinics.
The protests are part of a larger movement in Central and South America, where many other countries have restricted mining. However, with billions of dollars of profit on the line, it is unclear what step Panama will take next.
"They say that they're going to give us a health center and a school. But I don't want that from them. As a leader, I can see through that. How much destruction and pollution is there going to be? Schools and health centers, that's the government's responsibility." - Martin Rodriguez, Panama.
1. Where is Panama? What do you know about this country?
2. Why do some Panamanians not want the copper mines to be built?
1. Whose responsibility is it to protect the people from potentially dangerous business practices? Should it be the government, the business itself, or someone else?
2. Are there similar cases in the U.S. where businesses disagree with environmentalists?
3. How do you think this situation could be resolved? What concessions might each side have to make?