Canadian company First Quantum Minerals has suspended production at its Panama copper mine after a blockade of boats restricted key supplies.

In a text message seen by Bloomberg, the company said: “Cobre Panama is no longer operating at commercial levels of production.”

Last week operations began to slow at the mine as a blockade of boats prevented deliveries of coal needed for power. The pivotal mine produced 1.5% of global copper supply in 2022 and was responsible for around 40% of First Quantum’s revenue.

Protests initially broke out last month when the Panamanian Government awarded First Quantum a contract giving it the right to mine copper in the region for 20 years. The activists demanded that Panama be free of mining to rescue its ecosystem.

After legal wrangling last month, Panama’s supreme court is expected to enter deliberations again on Friday to rule on the constitutional challenges to the contract.

The company said: “Our site team continues to work to keep the plant, power generation facilities and all associated infrastructure safe and ready for swift ramp up as soon as the international port is reopened.”

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After the suspensions were announced on 23 November, First Quantum’s share price fell by 5.7% while copper prices hit a two-month high.

The Utramipa Union, which represents mine workers, wants the government and police to intervene to get the employees back to work. Union leader Michael Camacho said: “We are worried as a union because the authorities do not say anything.”

Governments and businesses have been increasingly focused on copper  due to the critical mineral’s vital role in the production of electric vehicle batteries. According to Mining Technology’s sister website Energy Monitor, global demand for copper will outstrip supply in 2030, highlighting the need for reliable copper mining projects around the world.