The Canadian Government will support First Quantum Minerals after the miner was forced to close down one its most lucrative projects in Panama last December.
Mary Ng, Canada’s trade minister, told reporters in Ottawa: “First Quantum Minerals is a really important Canadian company. I have met with them, I continue to meet with them, and really, I am really looking to supporting the Canadian company… as best as we can.”
In October, the Panamanian Government signed a new contract with First Quantum, giving it the right to mine copper at Cobre Panamá for 20 years. However, locals were disgruntled with the decision, urging their country to be free of mining due to its negative impact on the ecosystem. Protests broke out demanding the country’s top court declare the contract unconstitutional.
Panama’s supreme court entered legal proceedings after operations at the mine were forcibly suspended by protestors blocking off key power supplies. At the end of November, the court ruled the entire law that granted First Quantum the mining concession unconstitutional, impelling cessation of the operation.
The mine accounted for around 40% of First Quantum’s revenue and the forced closure lead to a near-halving of the company’s market value. Options are being assessed to “manage its balance sheet”, which include selling smaller mines and evaluating ways to raise funds. International arbitration proceedings over the contested mine have also been initiated.
Ng said that she had been in contact with Panamanian trade minister Jorge Rivera and that Ottawa is monitoring the situation closely.
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“I will stand up for Canadian companies where they operate, and First Quantum has operated in Panama for many years,” Ng said.
Copper prices rose in 2023, as production disruptions such as the First Quantum situation led to a shortage of supply. The Cobre Panamá mine accounted for 1.5% of global copper output.