In the News from Panama

Miner Launches Floral Conservation Program

It’s often easy to forget the wide-ranging impacts large businesses have on our communities. One recent: Cobre Panama, the copper mining operation in Panama, recently announced the opening of a laboratory in Panama focused on studying biotechnology and the development of environmental science to conserve and protect floral species in the country.

The mining company has established its first in vitro culture laboratory for “species of interest.” Working with scientific research organizations, the lab will use micropropagation techniques to ensure the protection and conservation of more than a dozen endangered species. 

Cobre Panama is one of the largest mining operations in the region, and most of the discussion focuses on its economic impact in Panama, including the tax revenue and jobs generated by the business. And Cobre Panama is often seen as controversial, in terms of its effect on the environment and its negotiations with the government. But this lab is an example of the ripple effects a large business has on the country, in many different ways.

Cobre Panama says it is committing $550,000 to the laboratory located at the Universidad Latina, Penonomé headquarters. In addition to its conservation role, the facility will also obtain healthy and virus-free plants, not only in the areas near the mine but throughout the country.

The lab will focus on wild flora or fauna whose morphology or other characteristics make them special, unique, and endemic to a given region, and require relevant actions for their preservation, according to a company statement.

 “We are a multidisciplinary team of microbiologists, plant biotechnologists, botanists, and biodiversity support personnel who work together to rescue the flora that is the cornerstone of Cobre Panama’s reforestation and restoration programs,” the firm’s Alejandro Chambi said in a statement. “We are very proud to be part of this innovative project committed to the use of biotechnology as a tool for the conservation of wild flora and the protection of biodiversity in our country.” 

In the last 12 years, Cobre Panama says it has invested more than $53 million in its environmental management plan, including reforesting 10,475 hectares over the life of the mine, almost twice the footprint of the operation. Currently, it is the largest private reforested in the country, with the capacity to produce up to one million seedlings per year of more than 20 native species.