Orla Mining to take Panama to arbitration court

Cerro Quema project. (Image courtesy of Orla Mining.)

Canada’s Orla Mining (TSX: OLA)(NYSE: ORLA) is mulling taking the Panamanian government to an arbitration court following the country’s rejection of a permit extension request for each of the three mining concessions that make up the company’s Cerro Quema gold project.

The Vancouver-based miner said it had notified authorities of its intentions with the hope the move would open the door to talks between the parties.

“If these consultations are not successful, the company expects to file a formal request for arbitration under the FTA late in the second quarter 2024,” Orla said in the statement.

The company said its “preference is a constructive resolution with the government of Panama that results in a positive outcome for all stakeholders.”

The country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry in December not only rejected the permits extension — it went as far as to declare the area comprising the concessions to be a reserve area, revoking them altogether.

Orla said the cancellations were a result of a law passed by Panama’s national assembly in November, which imposed a moratorium on granting, renewing or extending concessions for metal mining activities. 

The miner, which also has assets in Mexico and in the US state of Nevada, said that the notice of intent to arbitrate was filed under the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Cerro Quema’s development considers open pit mining of 21.7 million tonnes of ore from the La Pava and Quema-Quemita pits. The operation, planned to be built in multiple phases, is estimated to be able to produce 81,000 ounces of gold over an estimated six-year mine life.

During the construction stage, Orla estimates that it would generate 3,600 direct and indirect jobs and 1,200 during operations.