Copper mine protests roil in Panama – by Michael Fox (The – October 26, 2023)

The government approved a new contract with the mine late last week. Since then, protests have rippled across Panama, and people are afraid they could bring the country to a standstill.

Thousands of protesters in Panama have blocked roads and shut down major portions of the Pan-American Highway this week over a Supreme Court decision to fast-track a contract with a copper mining company.

Cobre Panamá is a massive copper mine owned by First Quantum Minerals that has been in production since 2019. In 2021, the Supreme Court declared the government contract with the mine unconstitutional for not living up to stipulations that it serves the “public good.” Panamá has been renegotiating a new contract over the last two years, attempting to provide greater environmental benefits to the state.

And this contract was fast-tracked through Congress last week, sparking outrage on the streets. Some unions have announced multiple-day strikes while schools have been closed.

Commerce Minister Federico Alfaro praised the deal on the Panama news outlet Telemetro. He said it would safeguard 40,000 jobs and provide windfall profits for the Panamanian state. “The agreement ensures a minimum payment to the state of $375 million a year for the next 20 years” — more than 10 times what Panama previously received yearly from the mine, he said.

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