PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Haiti brought in mining experts from around the world Monday in hopes of developing precious metals in one of the world's poorest countries.
Until last year, few knew that Haiti had precious minerals underground. Two mining companies have begun drilling for gold, copper and silver in the country's northeastern mountains. They say testing indicates the metals could be worth $20 billion — a lot of money for a country where most of its 10 million people live on just $2 a day.
"Haiti would like to place itself as an emerging mining country in the next 20 years," Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the conference.
He said it needs a mining code that is "modern and precise" and must "allow for transparent contracts with competent experts who have national interests at heart."
Lamothe said in September that he hoped to introduce a mining law within six months. The legislation would lay out rules on royalties for the government and on environmental protection.
In recent months, the Haitian government has awarded its first gold and copper exploration permits to SOMINE SA, which is jointly owned by Canadian company Majescor Resources Inc. and Haitian investors, and VCS Mining LLC, a North Carolina-based mining company with offices in Haiti.
However, few Haitians known much about the mining efforts. The camps are unmarked and the work is being carried out in remote villages.
Haitian lawmakers and others have accused the government and mining companies of giving too little information about contracts and progress. Actual mining is unlikely to happen for years.
The World Bank helped organize the two-day conference that drew experts from countries such as Brazil, Canada and Ghana. It's the first in Haiti to focus on mining. The bank is also helping the Haitian government update mining laws that have not been updated since 1976.
The forum also brought representatives from companies such as VCS Mining, Newmont Mining Corp. and Eurasian Minerals Inc.
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