Panama Commerce Minister with key mining contract role named US ambassador

Ramón Martínez, Minister of Commerce and Industries (MICI). Credit: Embassy of Panama

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen said on Tuesday he had appointed Ramon Martinez, currently the country’s Minister of Commerce and Industries, as Panama’s ambassador to Washington.

Martinez was the government’s lead negotiator for a new contract with a unit of Canada-based miner First Quantum which would lead to higher royalties. The contract has yet to be approved by the Panamanian congress.

Under the contract negotiated by Martinez, the Panamanian State will receive at least $375 million every year from the firm’s activities, a figure 10 times that obtained under past administrations, according to a government statement.

The company began negotiating a new contract with officials in September, after Cortizo vowed to seek a fairer deal with better public benefits.

Toronto-based First Quantum began commercial operations at Cobre Panama in 2019 and the copper mine contributes 3.5% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to government figures.

The date for Martinez’s transfer to the U.S. has not been disclosed.

(By Mariana Parraga, Elida Moreno and Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Christian Plumb)

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