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Protesters block Panama highway over mining rights

Protesters block Panama highway over mining rights
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Indigenous protesters are blockading the Pan-American Highway in Panama to demand that a mining ban in their homeland remain in place.

The protest began on Monday after the government approved a series of projects in the western part of the Central American country.

Indigenous people say the plans would spoil pristine rainforest areas and force their communities to relocate.

The country’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, said he would not be strong-armed into changing his mind.

He repealed an earlier version of the mining code a year ago amid violent protests that shut down the key highway into Costa Rica.

But the protesters are unhappy the revised law does not include an explicit ban on mining in the indigenous areas.

The leader of the Chiriqui tribe said they were left with no other choice because Martinelli was a domineering president who doesn’t want to listen.

Martinelli believes mining could be a huge boost to Panama’s economy.

So far, ten foreign firms have submitted 25 bids to explore for gold and other minerals in the indigenous areas.