McGill Research Group Investigating
Canadian Mining in Latin America

Cerro Colorado, Panama

Key Data

Company:none as of 2012; in the past Rio Tinto Zinc, Canadian Javelin, Tiomin Operational status:exploration Materials extracted:copper Type of mine:open pit Main issues:


The Cerro Colorado copper deposit of western Panama has been at the forefront of mobilization against mining in Panama since initial exploration of the site began in the 1970s. One of the world’s largest remaining copper mega-deposits, Cerro Colorado lies inside the autonomous indigenous territory or Comarca of the  Ngöbé-Bugle indigenous peoples. Conflicts with mining companies date back to the 1980s (Canadian Javelin) and Tiomin (late 1990s to e. 2000s). Curently there is no mining at Cerro Colorado but mining promoters associated with Corriente Resources have been active in the communities and have been formally asked to leave the area by Ngobe-Bugle authorities.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli’s government passed Law 8 in February 2011, which would reform the Panamanian Mining Code and facilitate foreign investment into Panamanian mining projects. This was met by significant resistance from the Ngöbe-Bugle indigenous people and supporters, who staged a series of protests and road blockades along the Pan-American Highway and at the University of Panama, in opposition to this law throughout February and into March. This resulted in the repealing of Law 8 via Law 313 on March 13, 2011. This process also resulted in the establishment of an ad hoc committee of government representatives and Ngöbe leaders.

Protests began once again in October 2011, citing a lack of government commitment to dialogue regarding mining reform, and to demand the passing of a law that prohibit mining in the Ngöbe-Bugle comarca.

In Jan. 2012, two Ngobe protestors were killed and dozens more injured in a police crackdown on a week-long road blockade, which the Ngobe established to protest the government’s failure to pass legislation that would annul existing mining concessions in the comarca.

In late March, 2012, the National Assembly of Panama passed Law 415 which amended the nation’s mining code and granted the Ngöbé rights over the mineral resources of their comarca.