Panama's Congress Approves Contract with Canadian Miner Amidst Street Protests - Expat Community

Panama’s Congress Approves Contract with Canadian Miner Amidst Street Protests

Oct 20, 2023 | News & Articles, Panama | 0 comments

Panama’s Congress approved a new contract with the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals for the operation of Central America’s largest mine amidst street protests. The contract was approved with 44 votes in favor, five against, and two abstentions, providing a minimum annual revenue of $375 million to the Panamanian government, ten times more than the previous agreement. The Canadian company has committed to substantial investments in communities near the mine, located on the Caribbean coast, 240 km from the capital.



“It’s about defending national interests, ensuring we receive greater and better benefits based on what we had in the 1997 contract, and, above all, protecting the jobs of thousands of Panamanians,” stated Federico Alfaro, the Minister of Commerce and Industries.



The approval occurred amidst protests organized by various labor unions against a contract allowing the mining company to operate in Panama for 20 years, with the possibility of a 20-year extension. Access routes to Panama City were intermittently blocked, with tire burnings and marches. Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators who approached the Assembly building, which was heavily guarded.



Demonstrators, some carrying Panamanian flags and anti-mining banners, chanted anti-government slogans. The day before, protesters clashed with police at the same location, using rocks, projectiles, and fireworks.



This year, the mining company and the Panamanian government reached an agreement to sign a new concession contract after the Supreme Court declared the original exploitation contract unconstitutional in 2017. Since February 2019, the mine has been producing about 300,000 tons of copper concentrate per year, employing over 8,000 people. The company has invested over $10 billion in Panama, contributing 4% of the country’s GDP and accounting for 75% of its exports.



The Panamanian government believes that the mining contributions can inject resources into the public pension fund and improve monthly payments for lower pensions.



However, some groups oppose the contract, considering it “unconstitutional” and arguing that the company’s contributions to the state are insufficient, besides posing an environmental threat.



“There is clearly a surrender of national sovereignty” in the areas where the mine operates, said Saúl Méndez, the secretary-general of Suntracs, Panama’s largest labor union.



Furthermore, “the environmental damage is devastating, open-pit mining is one of the most harmful,” Méndez added.



The Archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa, and several Catholic bishops have expressed their opposition to “the threats of mining in Panama.”



“This contract is onerous and harms the Panamanian nation… Now we are giving away our territory as if it were a colonial enclave,” said Deputy Zulay Rodríguez.



“Treasonous, let’s take to the streets to show them that they are not the owners of the country,” wrote presidential candidate Ricardo Lombana on his X account (formerly Twitter) for the 2024 elections.



France24 –

Related Post

What is going on in your part of the world? Are there any news of relevance you believe should be translated to english? Comment below!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Weekly News Summaries