Haiti: Country’s fortune changes as huge gold, copper deposits anticipated
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 US$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.
In neighboring Dominican Republic, workers are poised to start mining the other side of this seam later this year in one of the world’s largest gold deposits: 23 million ounces worth about US$40 billion.
The government of Haiti’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 citizens of Haiti working abroad last year. A windfall of locally produced wealth could pay for roads, schools, clean water and sewage systems for the nation’s 10 million people.
“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 marble-floored 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, gesturing out his window. “And they need it.”
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.