First Quantum Miners Injured in Panama Protests

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By Marco Echevarria

In a recent escalation of tensions in Panama, eight employees of the Canadian mining company First Quantum sustained injuries when their bus was attacked by protesters. The incident, involving rock-throwing at the vehicle transporting the workers, was confirmed by a union representative this Sunday. The clash is part of ongoing protests in Panama, triggered by the government’s decision on October 20 to allow First Quantum to operate a significant copper mine, a venture that contributes approximately 5% to the nation’s GDP and accounts for about 1% of the world’s copper production.

The protests have been fuelled by concerns over the environmental and economic ramifications of the mine’s operations. According to Michael Camacho, a union leader, the workers were leaving the mine, situated in Cocle province, when their bus was ambushed and its windows shattered. Minera Panama, First Quantum’s local subsidiary, reported that both employees and contractors were victims of this violent episode.

The Panama police acknowledged via social media that a private company’s bus was damaged during clashes with protesters near the mine, though they did not specify the company involved. This incident forced First Quantum to temporarily halt commercial production earlier in the week, as protesters obstructing a key port impeded the delivery of essential supplies to the mine.

Amidst this unrest, Panama’s Supreme Court commenced hearings to deliberate on several constitutional challenges against First Quantum’s contract. A verdict is anticipated in the near future.