Panama calls referendum on First Quantum copper mine contract – by Michael McDonald and Thomas Biesheuvel (Bloomberg News – October 29, 2023)

The future of one of the world’s biggest and newest copper mines has been cast into doubt after Panama’s government said it will hold a referendum on the project as it attempts to quell mass unrest.

The Cobre Panama mine, built and operated by Canada’s First Quantum Minerals Ltd., has become a political flash-point in the Central American country. President Laurentino Cortizo, seeking to appease opponents of the mine, said Sunday that a national vote would be held on Dec 17. on whether to revoke the company’s license.

The latest uncertainty around what lies ahead for the mine comes as the future supply of copper has become a hot topic among global policymakers and business executives. The long-term supply of the metal is constrained, with demand forecast to surge as the global economy decarbonises.

A new contract awarding a 20-year extension to First Quantum’s mining license was signed into law by Cortizo this month, sparking fury in the country and leading protesters to block highways and clash with police, demanding a referendum.

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