Why a copper mine is putting Panama in turmoil

The open-pit mine, located in Donoso, on Panama’s Atlantic coast, contributes to nearly 5% of Panama’s GDP ($76 billion in 2022). LUIS ACOSTA/AFP

The Supreme Court orders the closure of a Canadian deposit which is the focus of public hostility.

Thousands of Panamanians blocking the roads for over a month, schools closed, stores running out of food products… The ruling of the Supreme Court of Panama, which found in favor of the demonstrators, unlocked an explosive situation. It should put an end to the largest demonstrations since the fall of dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1989.

Protesters are demanding the closure of the largest copper mine in Central America, located in Donoso, on Panama’s Atlantic coast. The Canadian group First Quantum Minerals (FQM) extracted nearly 350,000 tonnes of copper there last year. Popular anger is focused on its exaggerated profits and, even more, on the environmental impact of the mine.

In October, the Panamanian Congress approved the contract renegotiated this summer between FQM and the government, which replaced the initial concession agreement in force for years but denounced in 2017 for having been concluded without a public call for tenders. The courtyard…

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