Disaster-ravaged Haiti may finally have found the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow – and it has been there all along, buried right beneath the beleaguered people’s feet.
A treasure trove of gold, silver and copper is hidden in the country’s hills, and the discovery may turn out to be as good as gold at relieving centuries of poverty-related ills.
Exploratory drilling conducted in the past year has found precious metals worth potentially US$20 billion deep below the ridges in the country’s northeastern mountains. A mining company is now drilling around the clock to determine how to extract them.
Workers are poised to start mining the other side of this seam in neighbouring Dominican Republic later this year in one of the world’s largest gold deposits: 23 million ounces worth about US$40billion.
The Haitian government’s annual budget is US$1 billion, more than half provided by foreign assistance. The largest single source of foreign investment, US$2 billion, came from Haitians working abroad last year.
Locally produced mining wealth could pay for roads, schools, clean water and sewage systems for the nation’s ten million people, most of whom live on as little as US$1.25 a day.
“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.
In a parking lot outside Anglade’s office, more than 100 families have been living in tents since the earthquake. “The gold in the mountains belongs to the people of Haiti,” he said, “and they need it.”
Until now, few Haitians have known about this buried treasure. Mining camps are unmarked, and the work is being done miles 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 US$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.