First Quantum halts Cobre Panama over covid-19 death

The plant at First Quantum Minerals’ Cobre Panama mine. Credit: First Quantum Minerals

First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) announced Tuesday that the company has received an order from the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Panama (MINSA) to temporarily suspend labour activities at its Panamanian subsidiary as a sanitary control measure due to covid-19.

The order was issued just one day after a worker at the company’s Cobre Panama operation died of complications caused by the novel coronavirus infection. Two weeks earlier, it was reported that several workers at the site had contracted the virus.

The temporary suspension of Cobre Panama is expected to cost $4-6 million per week

In response to the MINSA order, First Quantum has placed its Cobre Panama operation onto care and maintenance until the ministry is satisfied that the quarantine conditions are met.

“We have been working very closely with MINSA throughout the current covid-19 pandemic,” said Gordon White, General Manager of the Cobre Panama operations. “We respect and support the government’s efforts to reduce the impact of the pandemic in Panama and we will cooperate fully with MINSA.”

The heightened quarantine conditions require that all mining and processing operations be halted. It is expected that the port and power plant will continue operations in order to supply essential electrical power into the Panama national grid, and to sustain the care and maintenance activities.

Cobre Panama is also evaluating the reduction of all operating costs on the site for the expected duration of increased quarantine, including access to emergency labour code concessions for suspension of contracts.

First Quantum said the temporary suspension of Cobre Panama is expected to cost approximately $4-6 million per week, assuming suspension of labour contracts and hard turn down of other variable and fixed costs.