In Panama, gold exploration has been happening for several centuries. Earlier it was the natives who produced the yellow metal in small quantities. In 1501, the Spaniards landed in Panama and decided to step up the exploration and production of gold.
The Spaniards discovered gold and started extracting the yellow metal from the gold mines. After nearly three centuries, Panama gained freedom from Spain and later joined Colombia.
Within a century, with the help of friendly countries, Panama separated from Colombia; became a free country, ruled by its people.
The Early Gold Mines of Panama
For nearly a century, gold mining in Panama wasn’t taken seriously. Although there were a few mines, the Spaniards were focused on mining gold in Colombia.
In the late 16th Century, the Cocuyo Mine became one of the top mines in Panama to contribute to the Spanish coffers.
Later, when huge deposits of copper were found in the country, the focus shifted to producing copper. Interestingly, a substantial amount of gold was found in the copper mines. This rejuvenated interest in gold production.
The Spaniards also focused on the eastern side of Panama, in the Darien Province, which is near Colombia. Here, gold was extracted from the Espiritu Santo Mine for several decades in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries.
Since then, not much has been done to explore the area and extract the gold deposits. One prime reason for the neglect is the inhospitable environment and distance from the nearest human habitation. The area is only partially explored. It’s believed the region still harbors rich deposits of the yellow metal, waiting for miners and prospectors to reveal its rich secrets.
The Impediments to Gold Mining in Panama
Only a fraction of gold hidden in Panama has been extracted. The thick forests and remoteness have deterred small mining companies and prospectors from finding gold in the country. Only large mining corporations with considerable investments could overcome the various challenges and run a successful mining operation in Panama.
In fact, one of the most inhospitable parts of Central America is known as the Darien Gap. This narrow section of jungle is exceedingly difficult. The video below shows the dangers that migrants face while traversing this jungle.
Alluvial Gold Deposits
For many centuries, the natives extracted gold from placer deposits that are found in many areas in Panama. The harsh jungle, extreme remoteness, and use of primitive hand tools resulted in minimal gold production from placer deposits.
Placer gold is found in many rivers that run through the Darien province. In the past, some nice gold nuggets have been found in the Cupe and Paca Rivers. These rivers are also known for their rich placer gold.
In the Southern Darien, Marraganti and Tuquesa Rivers also contain placer gold. Sambu and Tucuti Rivers in the southwestern Darien and the Mamoni River near Chepo are also good places to prospect gold. Prospecting in these rivers can be extremely rewarding. But, not many go into these areas because of the many challenges like distance, tough terrain, mosquitoes, diseases, and dangerous animals.
There are rivers in Panama that offer easier access to placer deposits. The Pacora River that flows near Panama City contains some gold and is easily accessible to prospectors.
Water sources that drain the lode mines in the western regions of the country are known to contain gold. Prospectors have previously found the yellow metal in the Canazas River and Corita River. If you’re a prospector, the rivers of Panama offer a great opportunity for finding placer gold. For centuries, only the locals have been prospecting gold in the rivers mentioned earlier. A considerable among of gold is still hidden in the rivers untouched.
Hard Rock Gold
You can find both placer and lode gold deposits in Panama. In several places, lode gold is found along with other minerals like copper or silver.
In Darien province, which is some 20 miles from Colombia, gold is extracted along with copper in the Tuquesa Mine.
There are several lode deposits throughout Panama; most of them mined for several decades. You can find a considerable amount of lode gold on the western side of Panama. In these parts, you can also find gold in silver and copper sulfides. The Canazas Mine and Los Hatillos Mine are two of the largest mines in the region.
In the past, several areas on the north coast have seen extensive mining activity. Not much is known about the gold produced here, but records show that the Margajas and Cocuyo Mines were in operation for decades and were quite profitable.
The remote gold-bearing regions of Panama have much to offer. Those wanting to venture into Panama for gold must be prepared for the many challenges.