Government inaction denounced in the face of closure of Minera Panama

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

The Attorney General’s Office will today have to evaluate a complaint against the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI) for delays in the safe and orderly closure of Minera Panama.

The measure responds to a ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) of November 2023, following intense popular protests that paralyzed the country in rejection of open-pit metal mining and that enclave in Donoso (Colón), a subsidiary of the Canadian transnational First Quantum.

According to lawyer and environmentalist Harley Mitchel who filed the administrative complaint against the head of the MICI, Jorge Rivera, there are delays in the face of the environmental risk situation in the area.

Mitchel told the press that everyone has a duty to control and avoid environmental pollution, in accordance with Title VIII of the general environmental law.

He stressed that, despite the nullity of the contract law by the CSJ, the environmental, mining and administrative regulations necessary to resolve the situation remain in force.

The complaint also warns of an imminent risk of pollution that threatens nearby communities, as well as the flora and fauna of the region.

He also criticised the fact that the MICI report, based on an inspection of the project, lacked adequate legal and scientific foundations.

Counsel argued that the situation may become a time bomb for the next government administration to be assumed on 1 July if urgent action is not taken.

Although MICI launched a tender process for an environmental audit in April as part of the closure of the mine, details have not yet been released.

In this regard, the MICI in a statement denied the accusations and assured that there is no such inaction or delay in the actions being taken from the Safe Preservation and Management Plan.

There are approximately 132 thousand tons of copper concentrate valued at almost 200 million dollars, which are stored in the mine deposits following the unconstitutionality ruling against the contract between the Panamanian State and the First Quantum company.

In this regard, MICI reported that it has proceeded to request the services of a certified international laboratory, in order to carry out the technical tests and analyses, to determine the quantity and quality of the copper concentrate, as well as the geochemical characteristics of the stored material.

The entity also noted that the possible risks to both health and the environment have already been identified and mitigated.

Panama’s president-elect, José Raúl Mulino, has advanced in his first appearances the idea of opening to close, indicating that the high costs involved in closing the Panama mine could not be covered by First Quantum. According to Rivera, the mine’s closure could cost about $800 million.

“The contract cannot even dream of being revived, however, it is a reality that the mine is there, standing there but there it is and so you can’t stay,” Mulino said in statements to the Colombian media W Radio.

This article has been translated after first appearing in El Pais