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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gold Occurrences in Panama

The Coat of Arms of Panama shows plenty of evidence about the gold mining history of the  country.

The Isthmus of Panama is what joins North America to South America, and is the home of the Panama Canal joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Not surprisingly Panama also contains extensive gold deposits that have only recently been exploited.  Although gold was known in the earliest days it wasn’t until the early 1990s that several groups of miners who were mainly Canadians got several concessions from the Panamanian government to exploit the mineral resources of the Republic of Panama.  At the time because of lack of infrastructure there was no sense in mining Panama’s mineral wealth.  This all changed when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City on 9/11/2001 by ramming the buildings with airplanes.  This started the price of gold spiraling upwards from a price that was pegged at $300/oz in March 2001 to more then $1,500 today.  Gold isn’t the only source of mineral wealth in the country that may prove to be the largest copper deposits found anywhere on the planet.  By 2004 the money started pouring in to Panama for exploration of mineral resources, and it is still pouring into the country.

The Isthmus of Panama was formed about three million years ago when huge amounts of sediments from both North and South America filled in the gaps between the islands of an island arc forming a solid strip of land that finally joined the two continents together.  Many scientists feel this was one of the most important events that has occurred in the past 60 million years.  Because it filled the gap between the Americas it completely changed the pattern of oceanic circulation that gave us the world’s present climates by forcing warm water northwards thereby heating the whole northern hemisphere.  It also created a landbridge that allowed the plants and animals from the Americas to mingle.

Panama and the Panama Canal,  The high mountains to the south of the canal are the home of much of the gold in the country, but gold is found throughout the country wherever there are volcanic mountains   NASA

The islands were for the most part volcanic like the modern Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean Sea.  These volcanoes are represented today by the string of volcanoes in  Panama.  It is these volcanoes inland from the subduction zone just off the west coast of Panama where the Cocos Plate is being subducted beneath Panama that keeps these remnants of volcanic islands still active today it also provides the heat engine that allowed the many mineral deposits to form.

Gold panning lessons.   Public Domain

There are extensive deposits of placer gold in Panama with one of them in the southern part of the country more then 100 miles long along the banks of a river.  Because of its tropical nature the placer deposits in the country have been little exploited although some artisanal native miners have been working these deposits for years.


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