Mici analyzes contract with multinational to define the owner of copper

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

Last April, 24 institutions participated in the Intergovernmental Inspectorate to the copper mine operated by Minera Panama, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals. The objective of this exercise was to verify compliance with the initial plan for the Safe Preservation and Management (PGS) of the mine, which was submitted by the company on 16 January 2024 to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (Mici). In this sense, each institution verified the elements that related to its competence.

If there is one clear one that reflects the 34-page report, it is that, in the Donoso mine, when the price of the metal price has climbed unprecedented figures, $11,000 a tonne, and that the contracts are among the most appetizing, there is no process of processing concentrate, extraction or exports. Everything’s standing. The activities they left on record are related to the care and maintenance of the equipment, but so far.

For example, the group of officials found that the port used for the supply of materials and is guarded by the Panama Maritime Authority operates at its minimum capacity. Access to the Caimito grig in Punta Rincón is closed given the latest protests preventing the passage of trucks carrying personnel. The grinding operations are stopped; the piles of crushed ore collection are at their maximum capacity and the paralysis begins to look out with the oxidation of the rocks on their outside due to the prolonged stay to the weather.

The report details that concentrate and export storage operations are in place, although the mine galley is fully full. In the cellars it is estimated that there are 132,000 tons of copper concentrate, which already has a brown hue.

In this regard, the most important observation focuses on the care of this copper concentrate. The idea is to sell it, but who does it belong to? That hasn’t been defined yet. It could be from the company or the state. That will be decided on the basis of the date on which it occurred. This was indicated by the Office of the Attorney-General, consulted on the matter, which ordered the examination of the material to establish whether, at the time the material was processed, the contract was in force, or not. In the latter case, it would be from the State.

This technical analysis, as La Estrella de Panamá, was known by a source linked to the issue, will fall on a specialized company. The Mici is carrying out the procedure for the hiring of the multinational company SGS in order to determine the exact amount of the copper concentrate stored in the Copper Panama mine, the technical qualities of copper content and associated minerals, as well as the general terms of how the stored stack of the concentrate is located, the source said. The SGS consultant, an international company with laboratories in Chile, Peru, the United States, and a presence in Panama, must have experience and representativeness to finish the contract with the Mici, added this person on the condition of anonymity. SGS was founded in 1878 in Rouen, France, and is currently exceling as the world leader of testing, inspection and certification. In Panama, it focuses its exercise on environmental impact study audits and other environmental issues.

Another warning expressed by the inspectors is the attention to be placed on the pile of crushed material, which is also in the open and from which acid emanates by action of rainwater, nor has it been defined. It is crushed rock that must be processed to become copper concentrate. The amount of this battery has not been determined.

The auditers’ account details that the thermoelectric plant has been detained since November 13 in the absence of coal, so the mine contracted energy from the national distribution network, and has raised the costs of implementing the PGS plan. Inoperative pause can cause serious damage to the thermoelectric plant, causing failures in its operation, when it is launched.

Explosive tanks, where initiators, boosters and electronic detonators were kept, are empty. The emulsion plant is also not operational, the cooler has already been dismantled. Similarly, the ammonium nitrate that was stored was already allegedly transferred to the Ministry of Security to prevent theft or contamination of the environment.

A month and a month after the transfer of command, the administration of José Raúl Mulino will have to decide the future of the mine. The president-elect spoke of opening to close – that is, start the plant to raise funds for a later closure. However, in the mining industry, companies work to take advantage of the proceeds of metal material and once exhausted, close the mine.

In the event that some administration decides to resume mining activity, in the Mici rest the elements defined to implement a mining policy, which includes copper as strategic mineral of the country. The institution also rests the backbone to create a Mineral Resources Authority capable of regulating and following up on the policy, as well as an updated Mining Code, a black and white route over mining.

On November 27, 2023, the decision of the plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice declared the contract between the mine and the State unconstitutional. The government then ordered the company to prepare a proposal for Safe Preservation and Management Plan (cute and maintenance) for the mine.

his article has been translated after first appearing in La Estrella