Despite Protests, Panama's President Maintains New Mining Concession Contract - Expat Community

Despite Protests, Panama’s President Maintains New Mining Concession Contract

Oct 27, 2023 | News & Articles, Panama | 2 comments

Panama’s President, Laurentino Cortizo, defended his government’s decision to enact a law approving a new copper mining concession contract, which has been the cause of protests since Monday in various parts of the country, mainly in Panama City. The protests have led to nearly 50 arrests, vandalized ambulances, economic losses, and the suspension of classes.


According to the law enacted by the executive branch last Friday, the new contract with Minera Panama states that the company must pay an annual royalty of at least $375 million, depending on the copper market value, with retroactive payment required from December 2021. The concession lasts for 20 years, with the possibility of an extension for the same duration.


Previous protests led to modifications in the initial project, but in less than a week, the new contract passed the three required debates in the National Assembly, was sanctioned by President Cortizo on Friday, and published in the Official Gazette, becoming law.


This swift approval led organizations like the Union of Construction and Similar Workers (Suntracs) to describe it as a “hasty” contract and prompted various groups, including environmentalists, educators, and students, to join the protests. Opponents argue that the contract does not serve the country’s best interests and is detrimental to the environment, calling for its repeal.


In response to the protests, Minera Panama announced on Monday that the concession has been in effect since October 20 and committed to fulfilling the contract’s obligations and responsibly managing the mine, including its impact on the workforce, neighboring communities, and the environment.


On Tuesday, in a national address, President Cortizo defended the enactment of the contract-law, citing the long-standing relationship with the mine since the 1990s, the inherited nature of the renewal, and the consultations that were conducted.


“We made the right decision, not the easiest one. After a difficult and complex negotiation over two years, an agreement was reached in 2023 between Minera Panama and the Panamanian government, ensuring much better terms and conditions for the country,” said the president.


In response to the violent events that led to the suspension of public transportation in Panama City on Tuesday, Cortizo stated: “As president, I call for reason, respect for laws and institutions, private and public property, and free movement. I will not tolerate vandalism, calls for anarchy, or the commission of any crimes. These acts will be prosecuted.”


Despite the president’s statement, road blockades in some parts of the country continue. For the second consecutive day, classes have been suspended, and the Panama Chamber of Commerce estimates daily economic losses of between $60 million and $90 million. The Ministry of Health reported two vandalized ambulances, while the Association of Technicians and Paramedics of Panama reported similar incidents involving at least five ambulances.


As of Tuesday morning, according to the National Police of Panama, there were 48 people arrested for the acts of vandalism and five police officers injured. It is unknown if there were any injuries among the protesters.


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  1. Annie Schafsnitz

    Protests and road closures throughout the entire country. Towns throughout entire are out of gasoline and natural gas for cooking. Food shortage happening. This is not just Panama City. It is the entire country

  2. Annie Schafsnitz

    Also there was NOT a closure of public transportation on Tuesday.


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