Panama’s top court is currently weighing whether or not to block a Canadian mining giant from tapping into the region's copper.
Driving the news: A ruling by the country’s Supreme Court this week could squash First Quantum’s plans to mine copper at the Cobre Panama mine—which accounts for ~1% of global copper supply—by blocking a 20-year government deal.
Catch-up: Commercial operations at the mine have stalled for over a month due to blockades from protestors. Their concerns are largely over environmental issues but also that mineral wealth is being exploited by a foreign entity through unfavourable deal terms.
- Environmentalists warn the mine, which is located in Panama’s rainforest, will harm biodiversity and threaten water sources. Other protesters have alleged corruption.
- If Panama ends the contract, it’s unlikely the company (or any company) will secure a new deal, thanks to a recent bill banning both new mining licences and extensions.
Big picture: Copper was a top priority for many Canadian miners this year: Barrick, the second-largest gold miner, wanted to acquire First Quantum for its copper interests, Teck sold its coal unit to focus on copper, and Ivanhoe just began copper exploration in Angola.
- Copper is a mineral used in pretty much all electrical wiring and is also crucial for the green energy transition. The high demand could soon create a shortage of supply.
Yes, but: Panama’s ongoing protests, as well as protests at Peru’s major Las Bambas copper mine last year, show that new copper excavations won’t be without backlash.—QH