Riches beckon from beneath Haiti’s hills, and mining companies are hoping to lock in huge tax breaks to get at them.
By Jacob Kushner, published in Guernica Daily, Aug 16, 2012
Deep in Haiti’s northern mountains, a half-dozen supervisors at a mining exploration site spent their days playing dominoes at a folding table next to a helicopter pad. For weeks they waited in La Miel, off a dirt road deep in the countryside, for Haiti’s government to give them the go-ahead to search for the gold they believe is buried in the hills around them. Fig Newtons and water bottles filled the shelves of their staff tent. On a whiteboard, in scratchy handwriting, was a single-item to-do list for the week: Change $83,000 into Haitian gourdes.
A mile west, a team of locals with shovels widened a dirt road and lined it with a drainage ditch. They were paid by Newmont, the Colorado mining company working at La Miel, to prepare local roads for heavy mining machinery, which moved here when Newmont got permission to dig.
Mineral explorers have long suspected Haiti could be sitting on a wealth of gold deposits, and in the 1970s the United Nations Development Program confirmed it, testing the earth and publishing the results with the hope of attracting foreign mining companies.
Newmont and three other foreign companies took the bait; now, they are exploring much of northern Haiti for signs of gold, silver, and zinc ore. They hope to open a modern mine that might unearth tons of precious metals, while the price of gold is at record highs. In April 2011, VCS Mining, a small U.S.-based mining venture, purchased rights to explore 700 square kilometers at a cost of around $7,000 per year. Canadian explorer Majescor owns permits to explore 450 square kilometers. Last August its stock doubled in a single day after it a reported a high level of gold in some drill samples…