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Gold! Haiti hopes ore find will spur mining boom

By Martha Mendoza

Associated Press

Published: Friday, May 11 2012 3:26 p.m. MDT

"In low-income countries, the dangers are substantial," said UCLA political science professor Michael Ross. "The great irony of mineral wealth is that those countries that most desperately need infusions of mineral revenue — low-income countries with weak governments — are also least likely to manage these resources wisely, for the benefit of the country.

Already, the hundreds of jobs, the new roads and the community investment in a country where two out of three people have no formal employment is much appreciated.

Stone cutter Joseph Bernard, 47, says that before he got a job slicing rock samples, his family was going hungry. They had one cow. Their peanut and bean fields had gone to dust after months without rain.

Today, his wife has launched a business selling seeds, and his son and two daughters have started school.

"I found a job, but many didn't," he said, wiping a trickle of sweat from his deeply lined cheeks after a recent shift. "If more companies come, more people will work."

In a sleepy exploration camp at sunset, Hachey and his competitor, Daven Mashburn of Newmont Mining Corp., met to talk business over bottles of Haiti's Prestige beer, bumping fists in the low-germ "cholera handshake" that has replaced the traditional palm grip after last year's deadly epidemic.

The men talked labor — Newmont got 10,000 applications for 100 jobs when one project started up last month. They talked logistics — core samples are sliced in half, bagged, and flown to Santiago, Chile, where it takes 21 days to find out how much gold, silver or copper they contain. They talked hurricanes, cholera, political unrest and, yes, the earthquake — Mashburn spent four hours buried under piles of rock in Port-au- Prince, eventually pulled out with fractures from head to toe.

But mostly they talked about gold.

"Of all the places we work in the world," said Mashburn, whose company has operations in eight countries on five continents, "it would be really most satisfying to have success here. Haiti has great mineral wealth, and they surely could use it."

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