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Controversial Canada Mining Deal Shaping the 2024 Election: Panama’s Political Crossroads

Candidates are advocating for greater state ownership of the profitable mine, while the contract itself has been invalidated by the highest court in the country.

By Tarique Anwer
Published on :
The Controversial Canada Mining Deal Shaping the 2024 Election

Controversial Canada Mining Deal Shaping the 2024 Election: A mining agreement with a Canadian company has sparked intense opposition in the run-up to the May 2024 presidential election in Panama. While the highest court in the nation has invalidated the contract itself, candidates are arguing for greater state ownership of the profitable mine.

Controversial Canada Mining Deal Shaping the 2024 Election

In an effort to have the contract signed by Canada’s First Quantum on October 20 scrapped, Panamanians have staged the largest demonstrations in decades and urged candidates to take a harsher stance on a mine that accounts for approximately 5% of national GDP and 1.5% of global copper production.

Earlier on Tuesday, protesters were granted their objective when the Supreme Court of Panama declared the contract to be unconstitutional. This development increased the strain on the government and cast doubt on the future of the mine as voters approach the election.

The present administration permitted First Quantum to continue operating the mine despite a 2017 court ruling declaring a prior contract unconstitutional.

Prior to the court’s ruling, Carlos Lee, a political scientist at Santa Maria la Antigua University, predicted that the mining company’s 2024 elections would undoubtedly be affected by the positive moment of rebellion that occurred.

The implications of the ruling for First Quantum remain uncertain at this time; however, the passage of a measure by the Congress of Panama this month, which prohibits the granting of any further mining concessions or extensions, will likely impede the company’s ability to keep operations as usual.

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Ricardo Martinelli, a prominent presidential candidate and former president who is also a millionaire industrialist, suggested last week that Panama renegotiate the contract with the Canadian firm in order to obtain a greater portion of the project and increased royalties.

Martin Torrijos, an additional former president vying for re-election, advocates for the closure of the mine.

“Recently, Panama rejected metal mining,” he stated.

A First Quantum spokesperson informed Reuters just prior to the court ruling that the company upheld the rule of law and the democratic process, and that it would continue to collaborate with Panama “to find solutions that are acceptable to a wide range of stakeholders.”

The months-long dispute over the mining agreement has become a diagnostic test for the Central American isthmus’ capacity to reconcile its enduring business-friendly nature with the imperative to confront glaring inequality.

There is significant international interest in the Cobre Panama mine’s future throughout the remainder of Latin America, where numerous major mining concessions are owned by foreign corporations.

Regarding the mine, the Canadian company stated it intends to initiate arbitration proceedings against Panama. It has been stated that the government will protect the national interest.

First Quantum and a local labor union reported assaults against mine employees over the weekend.

Several polls place Martinelli in the lead, despite an appeal of a conviction for money laundering. According to his attorney, Carlos Carrillo, the matter shouldn’t affect his bid.

Three presidential candidates told Reuters privately that tensions are so high that an incorrect remark could cost them the election if protesters arrive at their doorsteps.

“Panama requires this mine today,” stated one of the presidential challengers. “We are engaging in the most abject folly.

“Discussing a complete mine shutdown is tantamount to preaching to the choir,” the candidate further stated. “To say what I just said in public is to ruin one’s chances of winning the election, but one also cannot overlook that a large part of the population – less organized and less vocal – understands the mine is necessary.”

As discontent grows, politicians have suffered: between October 19 and November 23, political parties lost more than 15,000 members, with the ruling party being the most severely impacted, according to official data.

Torrijos and independent candidate Ricardo Lombana’s harsher stance on the mine may be electorally advantageous, according to attorney and former Panamanian diplomat Roberto Ruiz.

For weeks, demonstrators have occupied the premises of Panama’s highest court, maintaining a vigil to demand that the contract be deemed unconstitutional. On Tuesday, hundreds flooded the streets in excitement of the decision.

Edgar Diaz, a 22-year-old student and one of the protestors, stated last week, “Our nation is not for sale.” “We all know this mine is not good for the nation.”

Samantha Claus, an additional protester, stated that the most crucial issue surrounding the election should be how and when politicians will terminate mining in Panama. The Reuter’s


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