LatinNews Daily - 01 March 2023

In brief: Panama rejects request to suspend Cobre Panamá labour contracts

* Panama’s labour ministry (Mitradel) has announced that it has rejected a request presented by Minera Panamá S.A. (MPSA), the subsidiary of Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals (FQM), to suspend the labour contracts of 4,051 workers at the massive Cobre Panamá copper mine. According to a Mitradel statement, MPSA presented the request arguing “fortuitous event or force majeure” – a principle under which it is recognised that on occasion the breach of an obligation cannot be attributed to the obligor due to events being beyond their control. MPSA cited the suspension of activities at the mine’s port, Punta Rincón, announced last month following an order by Panama’s maritime authority (AMP), which had led MPSA to warn it would begin a partial demobilisation of its workforce of over 8,000 employees and contractors. This is the latest twist in the ongoing dispute between FQM and the Panamanian government led by President Laurentino Cortizo, which has escalated since December 2022 when talks over a new contract unravelled, casting doubt over the future of the project – Panama’s biggest single foreign private investment and which, according to FQM, contributes approximately 5% of Panama’s GDP and accounts for 75% of the country’s goods exports.

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