Union members stage demonstration at First Quantum's Panama mine

10th January 2024 By: Bloomberg

Hundreds of Panamanian construction workers staged a demonstration at a shuttered copper mine that has become the subject of nationalistic sentiment in the Central American nation.

Members of the Suntracs union waved flags at the entrance to the mine operated by Canada’s First Quantum Minerals and hung a giant sign across the main gate that read: “This is sovereign territory” on Tuesday.

Suntracs, which played a key role in protests that led to the mine’s closure late last year, planned the demonstration to coincide with Martyrs’ Day, which commemorates anti-US riots in 1964 over sovereignty of the Panama Canal.

While the objectives of the demonstration were unclear, it’s the latest sign of the role played by resource nationalism in the shutdown of the Cobre Panama mine. A process to extend its operating contract sparked street protests, a withdrawal of government support and a Supreme Court ban — all in the lead-up to general elections in May.

Both First Quantum and a separate union of mine workers have called on security forces to prevent unrest at the mine site, where the Vancouver-based company still has some workers and installations.

Separately, Suntracs is staging protests in Panama’s capital city and several provinces over the closing of union bank accounts. The union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.