Panamanian activists to protest against approval of Orla Mining’s EIA for Cerro Quema project

Cerro Quema project area. (Image by Orla Mining).

Activist groups announced a protest action for Monday to reject the recent approval by the Panamanian Ministry of Environment of Orla Mining’s (TSX: OLA) (NYSE: ORLA) environmental impact assessment for the Cerro Quema project.

In separate communiqués, the Santeño Front, the Environmental Advocacy Center (CIAM) and the Mesoamerican Ecclesial Ecological Network, the Diocese of Chitré and Cáritas Social Pastoral warned about the potential negative impacts the project would have on the southwestern Azuero region, which is already dealing with drought, deforestation, mangrove destruction and the pollution of freshwater sources.

The organizations raised suspicion about the timing of the approval, which coincides with a political crisis that has former president Ricardo Martinelli and 14 other politicians and businesspeople on trial for alleged money laundering. In the activists’ view, people’s focus on such political dealings will distract them from the approval of the EIA.  

“As the country gears up to face a serious incoming drought related to the El Niño phenomenon, the acting Minister of the Environment, Diana Laguna, approved the Environmental Impact Assessment that green-lights the exploitation of gold in Cerro Quema,” CIAM’s media statement reads. “For eight years, different environment ministers had avoided approving the project, which involves the use of cyanide and other chemicals, thus endangering water sources in the districts of Tonosí and Macaracas, Los Santos province, an area already subjected to water-related problems.”

CIAM also noted that the environmental impact assessment was first submitted in 2015 and, thus, may be outdated. 

Cerro Quema, located on the Azuero Peninsula, is an oxide heap-leach gold project containing 560,000 ounces of total probable reserves (21.7 Mt at 0.80 g/t).

The 2021 PFS contemplates an open-pit operation capable of producing 81,000 oz per year over a six-year mine life, recovering 489,000 oz of gold. The project will be developed in multiple phases, with ore mined from the La Pava and Quema-Quemita pits.

Also in 2021, Orla Mining issued a mineral resource estimate for the recently discovered Caballito copper-gold deposit, which consists of 31.95 Mt of sulphide-indicated resources at an average grade of 0.96% CuEq (for 676 Mlb of CuEq), plus about 22.57 Mt of sulphide inferred resources at an average grade of 0.85% CuEq (for 425 Mlb of CuEq).

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