Panama is ready to cash in on its copper boom – by Nathan Vanderklippe (Globe and Mail – May 27, 2023)

Panama is sitting on massive reserves of copper and other minerals crucial to the energy transition. Now it – and other Latin American nations – are wringing massive concessions from mining companies like Vancouver’s First Quantum Minerals

The Cobre Panama mine has been gouged from the rain forest at a scale only great underground wealth could achieve.

Its 38 ultraclass mining trucks, each loaded with 400 tonnes of ore, whiz past at 35 kilometres an hour, their speed boosted by electric trolley lines. They feed conveyor belts that move 300,000 tonnes of ore a day, the equivalent of 16 CN Towers in a week, in a place that can see more than seven metres of annual precipitation.

The mine’s generating station produces enough electricity to run 300,000 Canadian homes, sending 34,500 volts to some of the largest ore mills on the planet. Its warehouse can store enough olive-tinted copper dust to meet the entire world’s needs for nearly two days, a critical resource in a global sprint toward electrification that depends on ever more copper to make electric wires and motors.

Then there are the supersized cheques the mine, operated by Vancouver-headquartered First Quantum Minerals Ltd. FM-T, is now promising the government of Panama. After a bruising fight that forced it to suspend operations earlier this year, First Quantum signed a new concession agreement in March that increases government revenue by roughly tenfold.

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