Panama City, Oct 17 Oct (EFE). – A group of workers, trade unionists and environmentalists renewed their protest on Tuesday against a mining contract between the state and a subsidiary of the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals (FQM), threatening to intensify demonstration if the agreement is approved by the Panamanian parliament.
Tuesday’s demonstration took place one day before the National Assembly (AN) resumes debate on the bill for the concession contract between the state and Minera Panama, which operates the largest open-pit copper mine in Central America.
“This is a leonine contract, a contract that sells the country, which the oligarchy wants because it benefits from it,” Saúl Méndez, general secretary of the militant National Union of Construction and Allied Workers (Suntracs), told EFE.
Méndez said that First Quantum had “found in the corrupt insiders and the corrupt businessmen the way to prevail against legality and constitutionality”.
“That is why we have chosen the people, and we are sure that the people have the strength to defeat this contract,” the union leader added.
Discussions about the contract will resume on Wednesday during the first debate in the Legislative Commission on Commerce, and if approved, it will be sent to the plenary session of the legislature for the last two remaining debates.
Roberto Ábrego, a legislator from the ruling Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and president of the Commerce Commission, said that once the corrections to the concession contract are approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, it will be up to this legislative body to vote for or against the proposed law.
“This has been one of the most widely consulted projects with all sectors of citizens, where all their concerns were collected and presented to the executive body so that they could be taken into account in the project, which was accepted in its entirety,” said Ábrego, according to an AN statement.
Amendments to the original contract
The new mining contract with the amendments was presented to the AN on Monday by the Panamanian Minister of Commerce, Federico Alfaro.
Among the changes made by the government, at the suggestion of parliament, are the elimination of “the expropriation clauses” of land and the condition that “allowed Minera Panama to request restrictions on airspace”.
Also a section d that “reaffirms that nothing in the contract limits or restricts the sovereignty of Panama over its territory”, was included.
The provision that the state would grant a concession for the exploration of gold, silver and molybdenum was also removed, as was the right of the company to ask the state to classify the identity of the final beneficiaries of the restricted.
This law has been widely rejected by environmental, civil and trade union groups, who have taken to the streets in demonstrations that have included clashes with the police.
“(We want) a moratorium on mining, a national debate to be opened on equal terms, and that after this debate there be a referendum (on mining), and that the will of the people be respected,” Jamir Córdoba, a member of Suntracs, told EFE.
Córdoba proposed that a ballot box be activated in the general elections of 5 May 2024, so that “Panamanians can decide if we want to be a mining country or not, but not by imposition, because then they will find us in the streets,” he remarked.
In March, the executive and the mining company reached a final agreement on a 20-year renewable concession contract for the exploitation of the Cobre Panamá mine, which started exporting copper in 2019. EFE
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