Mining Contract Stirs Widespread Protests in Panama City - Expat Community

Mining Contract Stirs Widespread Protests in Panama City

Oct 30, 2023 | Knowledge Base, Panama | 0 comments

Panama City recently witnessed widespread protests against a newly signed mining contract between the Panamanian government and the Canadian company, First Quantum Minerals.


The new agreement entitles the state to a minimum annual income of $375 million — ten times more than the previous contract. This has garnered widespread criticism and resistance, with detractors pointing out that this amount, though substantial, might not compensate for the potential environmental repercussions and other concerns associated with the mining operations.


Protests Erupt Across the City

Educators, healthcare professionals, students, construction workers, and other union representatives marched through the streets. Many displayed banners proclaiming “Panama without mining” and “This fight goes on, no matter what it takes”. These demonstrations brought Panama City’s typically bustling avenues to a standstill.


In response to the significant turnout, riot police deployed tear gas to disperse crowds, particularly in upscale neighborhoods like Paitilla and Punta Pacifica. Protests weren’t confined to the capital, as reports highlighted similar, though smaller-scale, events in other parts of the country.


The primary grievance revolves around environmental concerns and the constitutionality of the contract. George Hanily, director of the National Conservation Association (ANCON), underscored the potential repercussions that might extend beyond national borders. He spotlighted the “ecological connectivity between North America and South America,” hinting at the large-scale disturbances the mining operation could cause.


Contract Background

Notably, this isn’t the mining contract’s inaugural brush with controversy. The Supreme Court declared its 2017 predecessor unconstitutional.


The present agreement, framed in the shadow of this legal setback, permits First Quantum Minerals to mine in Panama for 20 years, with a possibility for a two-decade extension. Operational since 2019, the open-pit mine on the Caribbean coast produces approximately 300,000 tons of copper concentrate annually.


Government’s Stance

Panama’s President, Laurentino Cortizo, staunchly backs the contract, accentuating its augmented financial benefits. However, many remain unconvinced. Echoing the sentiments of many, Yemeníes Muñoz, a 26-year-old bank employee, remarked, “This contract violates our rights. Future generations might inherit a country devoid of its rich flora and fauna.”


Caution Advised

Given the ongoing protests, major roads in the capital and certain central regions of Panama remain obstructed, with demonstrators setting tires ablaze and littering the streets with debris. The situation has prompted Panamanian authorities to contemplate imposing a curfew.


The public is advised to heed any instructions or announcements from the authorities.

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