On Saturday, activists broke into the Puntan Rincón International Port, which is used by Minera Panamá to ship copper abroad, during the sixth day of protests against the recent approval of the mining concession for the Cobre Panamá copper mine.

The protestors arrived at the port via speedboat, chanting slogans criticising the mine. They were later escorted out by a patrol from the National Aeronaval Service.

First Quantum Minerals, the Canada-based company that owns the Cobre Panamá copper mine, responded to the incident in a press statement. It read: “We are deeply concerned about this incident, which represents a significant threat to our operations and the safety of our personnel. We call on competent authorities to safeguard the well-being of our workers, protect the facilities and preserve the integrity of our business operations.”

According to local media sources, the recent wave of protests against the mine have attracted up to 50,000 people. On Saturday, 20,000 people are said to have marched from the tourist hotspot of Cinta Costera in Panama City towards the city’s banking centre.

The protestors have rejected a new contract between the state and Minera Panamá, which was ratified one week ago through Law 406 by the country’s President Laurentino Cortizo, and demand that Panama be free of mining in order to rescue its ecosystem.

Under the current contract, First Quantum have the right to mine copper in the region for 20 years, with the possibility of an additional 20-year extension. Panama’s government are guaranteed to receive a minimum annual income of $375m from the contract.

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The Cobre Panamá mine entered commercial operation in 2019 and currently accounts for 1.5% of global copper output. The mine can produce 300,000 tonnes of copper annually when operating at full capacity. In response to the civil unrest, Panama’s Supreme Court said it is considering a lawsuit that alleges the contract with First Quantum violates the constitution. The court will issue an opinion within the next ten business days from last Thursday.