Canadian miner denounces illegal stoppage at Panamanian mine

Vancouver-based First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM)(LON:FQM) denounced that some workers and leaders from an outside union have been carrying out protest actions since March 9, 2018, which have “reduced the level of work being performed on the [Cobre Panama] project.”

The information was provided by First Quantum in a media statement and also during a press conference held today by representatives of Minera Panama, the company that holds the Cobre Panama concession and where Quantum has an 80% equity interest.

“The dominant union, which represents the majority of workers, is not involved in the action,” the communiqué reads. In a similar tone, Manuel Aizpurúa, spokesperson for Minera Panama, told journalist today that the actions carried out by members and activists connected to the National Union of Construction Workers and Similar Industries, Suntracs, are illegal because they have not presented a formal labour complaint.

“Cobre Panama is the largest mine being built in the region. We have invested $6.3 billion and we employ more than 10,000 people of whom 7,500 are Panamanian. They (Suntracs) are violating other employees legal rights and the right to work,” Aizpurúa said. The spokesman dubbed the union's actions as “labour terrorism.”

Together with Aizpurúa was Inocencio Galindo, the president of the Panamanian Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture. According to Galindo, 500 suppliers are also being affected by the stoppage. “We are very worried about the message that this situation sends to foreign investors,” he said. “Panama has always been seen as a peaceful country where their investments are safe,” he added.

As the press conference was taking place, Suntracs representatives rallied on a nearby street saying that they were supporting workers who are demanding better working conditions.

Cobre Panama is a large open-pit copper development project located 120 kilometres west of Panama City and 20 kilometres from the Caribbean Sea coast, in the district of Donoso, Colon province. The concession consists of four zones totalling 13,600 hectares and it is considered the world's largest undeveloped copper deposit.

The mine is expected to produce 300,000 tonnes of copper a year.