Panamanian commission visits shut down copper mine



Panama’s government on Thursday inspected a huge copper mine shut down after the country’s Supreme Court ruled in November that the government’s concession with a Canadian mining company was unconstitutional. The deal had triggered widespread street protests.

The administration of President Laurentino Cortizo has promised to carry out an orderly closure of First Quantum Minerals’ mine.

The process will take years if carried out in a way to avoid environmental impacts, according to the company, the government and outside experts.

The mine’s closure meant the loss of thousands of jobs. A small staff has remained to maintain the sprawling property.

Last March, Panama’s legislature approved an agreement with First Quantum allowing local subsidiary Cobre Panama to continue operating the copper mine for at least 20 more years. The open-pit mine was temporarily closed in 2022 when talks between the government and First Quantum broke down over payments the government wanted.

The new contract also included the possibility of extending the concession for another 20 years.

The deal set off weeks of protests. The protesters, a broad coalition of Panamanians, feared the mine’s impact on nature and especially on the water supply.

First Quantum has requested arbitration block Panama’s decision or obtain damages.

On Wednesday, Cobre Panama said in a statement that “the abrupt halt to operations before the useful life of the mine is unusual, so additional planning and preparation are needed.”

It said that at the government’s request it will present a preliminary “safe preservation and management” plan Tuesday with an eye toward the mine’s permanent closure.

An intergovernmental commission representing various agencies visited the mine Thursday. The government also invited representatives of some civil society groups. Last week, a team from the Attorney General’s Office visited as part of an investigation into complaints about possible environmental violations.


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