Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Copper mine in Panama&nbsp ;: Canadian operator requests suspension of 7,000 jobs

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This open-air mine, located 240 kilometers away from the capital of Panama, produces 300,000 tonnes of copper concentrate per year. (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

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The Canadian mining group First Quantum Minerals asked Panama on Thursday to be able to suspend the contracts of some 7,000 employees of the largest copper mine in Central America, after the contract renewing its concession was declared unconstitutional.

The company justified its request by denouncing roadblocks which, in recent days, forced it to temporarily suspend production at the site.

In this context, First Quantum Minerals requested from the Ministry of Labor the suspension of the contractual effects of approximately 7,000 employees, which would imply a cessation of the payment of salaries, the company explained in a press release.

The unions called on the ministry not to authorize the group's request.

The approval in October by Parliament of the renewal for 40 years of the concession contract for this gigantic exploitation gave rise to the most important demonstrations in Panama since the fall of dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1989, due to the financial conditions granted and of environmental concerns.

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court finally declared the law governing this contract unconstitutional. President Laurentino Cortizo, criticized for his inaction in the face of the blockages, subsequently promised a process of orderly and safe closure of the mine.

This mine open pit, located 240 kilometers from the capital, produces 300,000 tonnes of copper concentrate per year, representing 75% of Panama's exports and 5% of its GDP.

Trade and Industries Minister Federico Alfaro Boyd, the main person responsible for negotiations with the Canadian company, resigned on Thursday, warning that the Supreme Court's decision could have serious consequences for the country.

FQM had argued that the mine would generate 50,000 jobs and that the new contract provided for annual contributions to the State of minus $375 million, ten times more than the previous agreement dating back to 1997.

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