Panama breakthrough adds to good news for global copper supplies

Cobre Panama includes two open pits, a processing plant, two 150 megawatt power stations and a port. (Image courtesy of First Quantum.)

A breakthrough in contract talks at a mine in Panama is the latest piece of good news for global copper supplies following resumption of operations at a giant Indonesian mine and easing tensions in Peru.

Panamanian officials are “very close” to reaching an agreement with First Quantum Minerals Ltd. over a new contract for the Cobre Panama mine, said Ebrahim Asvat, a lawyer advising the government in the negotiations. A deal could be reached within two weeks, he said.

That would end a months-long dispute that culminated in the suspension of exports and ore processing at a mine that accounts for about 1.5% of the world’s copper production. The apparent breakthrough would also avoid dire consequences for First Quantum’s bottom line and Panama’s reputation as an investor-friendly jurisdiction.

It also comes just days after Freeport-McMoRan Inc. boss Richard Adkerson told an industry event that Grasberg is operating again after a landslide disrupted the Indonesian copper and gold complex, and that the company’s mine in Peru had returned to normal production after slowing mill operations by 10% to 15% amid anti-government protests.

There was also some relief in Chile Tuesday when the top-producing nation reported a year-on-year increase in monthly output after a series of operational setbacks and disappointments.

Just as those disruptions had supported copper prices in a recent pullback fueled by demand concerns, it stands to reason that a return to normal programing at some of the world’s biggest mines will offset some of the bullish sentiment derived from positive signs out of China.

(By James Attwood and Yvonne Yue Li)

See also: Copper price rises as China’s economy shows strong recovery


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