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TROU DU NORD, HAITI— Its capital is blighted with earthquake rubble. Its countryside is shorn of trees, chopped down for fuel. And yet, Haiti’s land may hold the key to relieving centuries of poverty, disaster and disease: There is gold hidden in its hills – and silver and copper, too.
A flurry of exploratory drilling in the past year has found precious metals worth potentially $20-billion deep below the tropical ridges in the country’s northeastern mountains. Now, a mining company is drilling around the clock to determine how to get those metals out.
“If the mining companies are honest and if Haiti has a good government, then here is a way for this country to move forward,” said Bureau of Mines director Dieuseul Anglade.
Haiti’s geological vulnerability is also its promise. Massive tectonic plates squeeze the island with horrifying consequences, but deep cracks between them form convenient veins for gold, silver and copper pushed up from the hot innards of the planet. Prospectors from California to Chile know earthquake faults often have, quite literally, a golden lining.
Until now, few Haitians have known about this buried treasure. Mining camps are unmarked, and the work is being done kilometres up dirt roads near remote villages, on the opposite side of the country from the capital. But U.S. and Canadian investors have spent more than $30-million in recent years on everything from exploratory drilling to camps for workers, new roads, offices and laboratory studies of samples. Actual mining could be under way in five years.
“When I first heard whispers of this I said, `Gold mines? There could be gold mines in Haiti?’” said Michel Lamarre, a Haitian engineer whose firm, SOMINE, is leading the exploration. “I truly believe this is our answer to taking care of ourselves instead of constantly living on donations.”
Gold was last gathered in Haiti in the 1500s, after Christopher Columbus ran the Santa Maria onto a Haitian reef. Spaniards enslaved the Arawak Indians to dig for gold, killing them off with harsh conditions and infectious diseases. When the Spaniards learned of even more lucrative deposits in Mexico, they moved on.
In the 1970s, United Nations geologists documented significant pockets of gold and copper, but foreigners weren’t willing to risk their cash in a country where corruption and instability has long discouraged outside investment.
Ironically, it was only after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that investors saw real opportunity. Fifteen days after a seismic jolt brought down much of Port-au- Prince, a Canadian exploration firm acquired all of the shares of the only Haitian firm holding full permits for a promising chunk of land in the northeast.
“Investors want to get in at the bottom,” said Dan Hachey, president of Majescor Resources, “and I figured after that earthquake, Haiti was as low as it could get.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/silver-and-gold-lining-to-haitis-geological-vulnerability/article2430691/