First Quantum's Panama copper mine to go into maintenance this week

20th November 2023

By: Reuters


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TORONTO/LONDON - Canada's First Quantum Minerals will carry out maintenance at its Panama mine from November 23 due to coal supplies being blocked by protestors opposing the government's contract with one of the world's biggest and newest copper mines, two sources familiar with the discussions said on Monday.

This move would effectively suspend production at the Cobre Panama mine until coal supplies resume as the mine cannot operate without power, one of the sources said. The sources declined to be identified as the information is not public.

Protests have escalated since the government and First Quantum signed a new contract on October 20 for Cobre Panama, which contributes 1% to global copper production and 5% to Panama's gross domestic product.

A ship with supplies for the mine was unable to dock as local boats blocked off access to the key port, the company said on Friday.

An FQM spokesman declined to comment specifically on the Nov. 23 suspension.

“In terms of production we are talking about a temporary halt because of the illegal blockade. As soon as the port reopens, we will be able to ramp production back up quickly,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.

Earlier on Monday, First Quantum said it had further ramped down operations at Cobre Panama to one remaining ore processing train, adding that it expects to run out of supplies for the on-site power plant during the week commencing November 20.

"The focus will be to maintain the tailings pond 24/7," one of the sources said about the maintenance.

Tailings ponds are created to store waste generated from mining, which requires proper maintenance.

Panama's top court will hear the legality of the contract awarded to First Quantum from Nov, 24, the company said in the statement.

Copper prices hit a two-month high at $8 419 a metric ton while the company's stock fell as much as 5.7% after Reuters reported the mine suspension. By 12.10 p.m. ET (1710 GMT), the stock was down by 1%, trading at C$15.18.

The stock has fallen about 48% in 16 trading days after the Panama government said a referendum would be held to decide the future of the contract that it signed with First Quantum. The stock rout has wiped out about C$9.38-billion ($6.8-billion)from the company's market value.

Edited by Reuters



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