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30 Oct 2023

Panama: Decision to award a 20-year extended concession to First Quantum Minerals to exploit copper triggers unprecedented protests

Bienvenido Velasco/ EPA

In March, the President of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, signed an agreement to extend (for 20 years and extendable) the copper exploration concession at the largest open-pit copper mine in Central America held by Minera Panama, a subsidiary of Canada's First Quantum Minerals.

The country has been gripped by protests. The population claims that the contract was negotiated without transparency. It was approved and sanctioned by the government in record time, in just three days. Protesters say it was not possible to consult the documents relating to the concession properly.

Environmentalists also warn of the potential negative impacts of the expansion on water resources.

The demonstrations faced violent police repression.

The protests have been reignited in recent days as a result of the government signing the contract.

Local media have reported shortages of products in supermarkets, heavy security and the use of tear gas to disperse protesters.