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Panama president proposes referendum on controversial copper mine

PANAMA CITY, Oct 30, 2023 (Net) – Panama President Laurentino Cortizo proposed on Sunday that a referendum be held to decide whether to repeal a controversial mining contract that has been at the heart of protests rocking the country.
The copper mining contract with First Quantum Minerals, a Vancouver-based company, has sparked nine days of demonstrations over the mine’s potential environmental impacts as well as other terms of the deal.
Thousands of Panamanians have marched to demand that the contract, concerning the largest open pit copper mine in Central America, be repealed.
In response to the unrest, Cortizo had already on Friday announced a ban on new metal mining conces-sions.
The vote to repeal or keep the First Quantum contract would be held on December 17.
“Through citizen participation, through voting we will be able to legitimize the will of the people, the result of which will be mandatory,” Cortizo said.
Cortizo also announced that his government will request a law that prohibits “metallic mining at the na-tional level.”
The protests broke out on October 20, when Congress approved the law that allows First Quantum Min-erals to operate the mine for 20 years, with the option to extend for another two decades. The president promulgated it the same day.
Teachers, doctors and union workers all swelled into the small country’s streets to oppose the contract, setting up blockades in the capital and other cities, including some blocking the Pan-American highway that connects Panama with the rest of Central America.

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