By Adriano Marchese
Toronto-based mining company First Quantum Minerals has announced that it is scaling back its copper operations in Panama due to ongoing protests that have blocked access to the Punta Rincon port. The company’s Panama-based subsidiary, Minera Panama, has begun reducing its ore processing operations at the Cobre Panama mine by ramping down one of its three ore processing trains.
The disruption to operations is a result of a blockade of small boats at the port, which serves as the main delivery point for the mine. The blockades have prevented the delivery of key supplies necessary for the mine’s operations, including its on-site power generation plant.
The protests began in August following a government decision to extend First Quantum’s contract for the Cobre Panama mine by an additional 20 years. In the subsequent months, the protests escalated, leading to the blocking of key roads across the country.
While production at the mine initially remained unaffected, the protests have caused disruptions and shortages of certain supplies at the site. First Quantum, whose mine contributes approximately 5% of Panama’s gross domestic product, warned that prolonged disruptions at the port could have broader implications for the local and national economy.
The company did not disclose specific details but stated that it reserves the right to protect itself using all available options under its contractual rights and international law.