Blog Entry

Take Action: Call on Minister Ng to Withdraw Commercial Support to First Quantum Minerals

In October and November 2023, Panamanians took to the streets in record numbers to denounce a mining contract between Canada’s First Quantum Minerals and the Government of Panama. For years, First Quantum has operated its massive open-pit copper mine in legal limbo, as its concession was declared unconstitutional in 2017. 

When a new deal was announced that would extend the mine’s operations 20 years, organizations like Panama Vale Más Sin Minería (Panama is Worth More Without Mining) – a coalition of conservation and environmental organizations, together with educators, workers, health professionals, youth groups, Indigenous communities and farmers – protested daily for nearly two months against the new contract, and the widespread environmental and social harms caused by existing mining operations. They achieved what many thought impossible: the Supreme court declared the contract unconstitutional and the government declared a country-wide moratorium on new mining.

It came at a cost, however. A new report documents a disproportionate use of force against protestors, police brutality, and legal charges brought against people for exercising their right to protest. Panamanian police arbitrarily arrested more than 1500 people during the protests and opened investigations against 175 people, using the threat of further criminalization as a fear tactic against those opposing mining interests in the country. There were also five deaths during the protests–two hit-and-runs, two murders, and one person who died from heat stroke.

First Quantum has announced it is willing to pursue international arbitration against Panama, suing the country under the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement for $20 billion if the contract is not reinstated.

The Canadian government has stood by First Quantum Minerals this whole time. Even as protesters were met with violence and First Quantum tries to avoid mine closure, Minister of International Commerce and Economic Development Mary Ng says that it’s her job to advocate in support of the Canadian company.

Call on Minister Ng to withdraw all government support to First Quantum Minerals, respect the Panamanian Supreme Court ruling that declared the contract unconstitutional, and respect the will of Panamanians who say “Panama is worth more without mining!"