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Cobre Panamá from First Quantum Minerals Ltd, Panama

The deforestation began with the exploitation of gold by the Panamanian capital company Petaquilla Gold and has continued with the exploitation of copper by Minera Panamá, a subsidiary of the Canadian First Quantum Minerals.


The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been used by the Panamanian government as a justification to promote an increase in the number of open-pit metal mines in the country as part of an economic reactivation "strategy" [1]. Ignoring the extensive biodiversity of its tropical forests and water resources [2], the government insists on promoting mining as an economic recovery activity despite serious risks, given the large number of approved contracts (14) and concession applications (130) are located in areas near or overlapping protected areas, watershed source areas, and biological corridors. Considering the topography of the country and its narrow territory, which includes more than 500 rivers, these licenses will cause disproportionate environmental and social harm [3].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Cobre Panamá from First Quantum Minerals Ltd, Panama
State or province:Provinces of Colón and Coclé
Location of conflict:Donoso District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Tailings from mines
Thermal power plants
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Copper
Project Details and Actors
Project details

2020 Production Copper 206.000kt, Gold 85.000koz Silver 1,595,000 oz

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Project area:38,000 ha aproximadamente. (13,000 ha concesionadas a Minera Panama y 25,000 ha reincorporadas al régimen de concesiones mineras)
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectFor the Mining Chamber of Panama and allies, although the Government of Panama seeks to expand mining, the success of these efforts could be hampered by the lack of projects and very limited exploration. The sector is dominated by Cobre Panamá, which at US$6.5bn is one of the largest investments in the country's history, with a production capacity of 350,000t/y of the red metal. Vancouver-based First Quantum started commercial operations at the mine in 2019. The company is moving forward with the US$327mn expansion of Cobre Panama that aims to increase the pace of processing to 85Mt/y. at 100Mt/y from, and due for completion in 2023. Molejón is an open pit mine with a production capacity of 100,000oz/y gold, although Broadway has yet to release information on its plans for the asset. Lastly, Orla Mining owns the Cerro Quema gold project, which is expected to produce 78,500oz/y gold after a US$117mn investment.
Type of populationRural
Affected Population: 24 peasant communities
Start of the conflict:2007
End of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Inmet Mining Corporation from Canada
Korea Panama Mining (KPM)
Minera Panama SA from Panama
First Quantum Minerals Ltd. from Canada
Relevant government actors:MICI,
Gobierno Nacional de Panama,
Defensoria del Pueblo,
Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente
International and Finance InstitutionsInmet Mining from Panama
J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley y RBC Capital Markets
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Movimiento Panamá vale más sin Minería (sitio web en construcción),
Comite Pro-cierre Petaquilla,
Colectivo Panama Profundo,
Etnia Rey Quibian,
Radio Temblor
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Air pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Noise pollution, Oil spills, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:A legal action has been filed before the Supreme Court of Justice and in 2017 it ruled in favor of the Environmental movement.
In 2021, more than one hundred organizations signed a law initiative to declare a moratorium on metal mining, which was signed by organizations from all over the country [1].

Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, the company Minera Panamá continues to operate and recently was granted a mining reserve for exploration of a total of 25,000 ha.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[4] Resoluciones 89 y 90 de 12 de mayo de 2021.
[click to view]

[5] Resolución No. AG-0139-2009 de 4 de marzo de 2009 “Por medio de la cual se declara el área protegida de Donoso”.
[click to view]

[7] Ley 125 de 4 de febrero de 2020.
[click to view]

[8] Ley 9 de 26 de febrero de 1997.
[click to view]

Código de los Recursos Minerales de 1962

Cedeño, Eduardo. 2009. Análisis Económico y Distributivo de los Impactos de la Actividad Minera en Panamá. Caso de Estudio: Proyecto Minero Petaquilla Gold, S.A. The Nature Conservancy. Panamá. 44 pp.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de America Latina OCMAL
[click to view]

[1] ECO TV, Estado Panameño apuesta a minería y tendrá 50% de acciones en nueva refinería. 18 de mayo de 2021.
[click to view]

[2] Ministerio de Ambiente de Panamá. Biodiversidad, el gran tesoro de Panamá
[click to view]

[3] Flores Castro, Eduardo. Universidad de Panamá. Minería metálica a cielo abierto. Artículo de opinión disponible en:
[click to view]

[6] Panamá América. Ambientalistas rechazan mina de cobre y nuevas concesiones. 23 de junio de 2021.
[click to view]

[9] First Quantum
[click to view]

[10] Diario La Estrella de Panamá. Corte declara inconstitucional contrato de Minera Petaquilla. 25 de septiembre de 2018.
[click to view]

[11] Noticias de Panamá. Minera Panamá presenta cinco recursos ante fallo de la Corte que declara inconstitucional contrato minero en Panamá. 2 de octubre de 2018.
[click to view]

[12] Diario La Estrella de Panamá. Gobierno define equipo para renegociar contrato con Minera Panamá. 14 de julio de 2021.
[click to view]

[13] Diario La Prensa. La Corte rechaza recursos y aclaraciones sobre el fallo que declaró inconstitucional el contrato de Minera Panamá. 16 de julio de 2021.
[click to view]

[14] Agencia EFE. Protestan en Panamá contra la minería “es pan para hoy y hambre para mañana”. Disponible en:
[click to view]

[15] First Quantum
[click to view]

[16] Diario La Prensa. Contradicciones en inspección de derrame en zona minera; MiAMBIENTE abre proceso administrativo. 20 de julio de 2021.
[click to view]

[17] Mina de cobre causó 209 daños ambientales. Escrito por Mary Triny Zea. Publicado en La Premsa el 27 de Mayo de 2021.
[click to view]

[18] Asamblea Nacional de Pnamá. Denuncian injusticia por parte de Minera Panama en Donoso. Publicado el 21 de febrero de 2018.
[click to view]

[19] INFOBAE. 2021/. “Negociadores de Panamá "meten ruido" en la COP26 por los jóvenes y las mujeres”.
[click to view]

[20] CIAM Panamá. Twitter.
[click to view]

Campesinos detenidos en protesta contra Petaquilla, Panamá.

La Estrella, EFE. Publicado por MAC el 03.06.2009
[click to view]

Ambientalistas entregan un proyecto de ley de moratoria minera en Panamá. Día a día. Publicado el 24 de Junio de 2021
[click to view]

NUNCA EXISTIÓ LA MINERÍA RESPONSABLE, NI SOSTENIBLE, NI VERDE… NO A LA MINA. La montaña sigue en pie gracias a su gente. Publicado el 11 de enero de 2016.
[click to view]

Análisis sobre e conflicto extractivo minero en Panamá. OCMAL.
[click to view]

La agridulce y añeja historia de la minería y Panamá. La Estrella de Panamá. Escrito por Adelita Coriat, actualizado 17/05/2015.
[click to view]

Continúan las acciones del movimiento PANAMÁ VALE MÁS SIN MINERÍA. Panamá.
[click to view]

Conflictos Mineros en Panamá. OCMAL.
[click to view]

Panamá: minería arrasa con bosques del Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano. Por José Arcia en 18 de diciembre de 2018. Mongabay.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Indígenas exigen el cierre de proyecto minero de Petaquilla.

Publicado el 14 de febrero de 2012.
[click to view]

Voces panameñas por la vida y en oposición la minería En medio de la entrega del país a la minería por el gobierno del presidente Laurentino.
[click to view]

[click to view]

Conflicto de Minera Panamá y SUNTRACS | Saúl Méndez del SUNTRACS
[click to view]

[click to view]

Fundación Tortuguias. ¿Qué es la minería?
[click to view]

Panamá 🇵🇦: minería contra la crisis.
[click to view]

Bosques Vírgenes de la remota vertiente del Caribe panameño están siendo devastados para la explotación minera.
[click to view]

Coclesito De como la minería saquean a los pueblos.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ficha original: Patricio Chávez; Actualizado en otcubre del 2021 por Damaris Sánchez Samudio ([email protected]), Serena Vamvas ([email protected]) y Jonathan González Quiel ([email protected]).
Last update24/01/2022
Conflict ID:793
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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