Panama’s Supreme Court Reviews Mining Contract Amid National Protests

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By LatAm Reports Editor

The Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) in Panama has commenced a critical session to deliberate on the constitutionality of Law 406, which underpins the contentious contract between the Panamanian state and Minera Panama. This contract has been the focal point of widespread protests over the past month. The session, led by President María Eugenia López Arias and comprising nine judges, began at 9:00 am local time at the Gil Ponce Palace of Justice in Panama City.

The CSJ has not specified the duration of this session, stating that it will continue as long as necessary for thorough analysis, debate, and discussion. The outcome of this session, particularly a potential declaration of unconstitutionality, is eagerly awaited in Panama. Such a decision could potentially resolve over a month of intense protests that have significantly disrupted the country’s supply chain and brought parts of it to a near standstill.

The contract in question, ratified by President Laurentino Cortizo on October 20 after swift passage through parliamentary debates, involves Minera Panama, a subsidiary of the Canadian firm First Quantum Minerals (FQM). It grants rights for the exploitation of Central America’s largest open-pit copper mine. The ratification sparked immediate backlash, with environmentalists and youth groups taking to the streets, soon joined by various social factions. This widespread opposition led the parliament to impose a moratorium on mining activities and repeal Law 406.

However, facing the prospect of a multi-million dollar lawsuit from the mining company, the legislative body considered a declaration of unconstitutionality as a more viable option. Since November 12, protesters have maintained a vigil outside the Supreme Court, urging a swift resolution to halt the mining project, which they claim causes substantial harm to the Central American Biological Corridor.

Among the protesters is Guido César Berguido, a biologist and director of the Adopta Bosque Panamá Foundation. Berguido is a prominent figure in the “Panama Vale Más Sin Minería” (Panama is Worth More Without Mining) movement, which has been instrumental in driving the anti-mining protests. The nation now awaits the Supreme Court’s decision, which could mark a turning point in this environmental and social crisis.