First Quantum’s copper deal with Panama in jeopardy as protesters take to the streets – by Nathan Vanderklippe (Globe and Mail – September 8, 2023)

A hard-won Canadian copper mining contract in Panama has become the target of protests and legal denunciations as it nears the final steps to finalization.

Panama’s National Assembly has begun consideration of a contract law for First Quantum Minerals Ltd.’s Cobre Panama mine, which would end a lengthy period of uncertainty for the Vancouver-based company and formalize a royalty structure that promises hundreds of millions of dollars a year for Panama, establishing a new economic pillar alongside the country’s namesake canal.

But street protests that have broken out in Panama City this week have made tangible a swelling opposition to the contract, which has been denounced by labour activists, Indigenous groups, former government leaders, constitutional scholars and evangelical pastors alike. Even the Catholic Church has expressed concern.

Some want Panama to renegotiate the contract. Others say the US$10-billion mine, which began commercial operation in 2019, should be put to an international bidding process. Still others want Panama to take a state ownership stake, following the lead of other countries in the region that have nationalized mineral resources.

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