First Quantum Minerals looks to new president for help with disputed mine

6 May 2024

First Quantum Minerals said it is looking forward to talks with Panama's new government to find a resolution to the Canadian company's disputed Cobre Panama Mine.

Panama elected Jose Raul Mulino as its new president.

Analysts see the election result as a positive development for the Cobre Panama Mine, which accounts for about 1 percent of global copper output. Panama's outgoing government ordered the mine shut down last year after public protests over environmental damage from mining in the Central American country.

Mulino won the election with 34 percent of the vote, in a campaign mostly centered on his former boss, ex-President Ricardo Martinelli, who had strong popular support, but was barred from running in March due to a money laundering conviction.

While most of the other contenders for the presidency took a hard-line stance against mining, Mulino showed a less conflicted approach.

“We look forward to a dialogue with the new administration and to working together once it takes office to find a resolution that is in the best interests of Panama,” a First Quantum spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Analysts are waiting to see what policy changes the new government will implement when it takes power in July.

“Mulino is viewed as pro-business and has been supportive of mining in the past; however, like all the candidates, he was careful with comments about mining in the election campaign,” RBC Capital Markets said in a research note.

But there is still uncertainty around the Cobre Panama Mine, with work to be done to improve public sentiment towards mining and negotiations with the new government before contemplating a re-start, the report added.

Even if Mulino decides to take a different approach to mining, hurdles remain in the Panamanian Congress, where no party secured a majority. The group with the most seats is comprised of independent lawmakers, with many of them having participated and encouraged anti-mining protests last year.

Investment banking firm BancTrust & Co said the current political situation in Panama could make it difficult to revive the mining contract at least in the short-term.

Photo credit: First Quantum Minerals.

Reporting by Divya Rajagopal in Toronto, Valentine Hilarie in Panama; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Paul Simao


Tags: Copper, First Quantum Minerals, Panama, Cobre Panama Mine