A recent development that has sent shockwaves through the mining industry is the ruling by the Panamanian government that First Quantum Minerals’ $6.4 billion Cobre Panama copper deal is unconstitutional. In a stunning move, Panama’s Supreme Court effectively suspended the project in March of 2021 in a move which caught investors by surprise.
The ruling means that First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian based mining business, is unable to proceed with the development of the copper mining project in Panama – despite having already invested billions in the project.
The ambitious project was set to become the largest open-pit copper mine in Latin America and had the potential to transform the economy of Panama, one of the poorest countries in the region.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the contract has put paid to the dreams of a copper mining boom for the people of Panama. The ruling was in response to a number of challenges that have been raised against the project, including the lack of environmental protection and the theft of ancestral lands. In its ruling, the court found that the project presented a violation to the Panamanian Constitution which guarantees the rights of indigenous communities and the protection of the environment.
For First Quantum Minerals, the ruling is a setback to its ambitious plans. Having already invested over six billion dollars in the project, the company now faces the prospect of having to write off this investment. The outlook is uncertain, as the company is now navigating unchartered legal waters with the Panamanian government, and could potentially be subject to further legal delays or government challenges which could lead to additional losses.
Regardless of the outcome, the decision of the Panamanian government stands as a reminder that the law should remain the guardian of corporate and social responsibility. The ruling highlights the importance of companies conducting due diligence and adhering to international legal standards. It is also a reminder that the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples must be respected.