Activists of Panama celebrate a “historic moment” in the ruling against a copper mine

Activists of Panama celebrate a “historic moment” in the ruling against a copper mine

In celebration of a ruling by the highest court in the country, environmentalists in Panama have come to the streets, potentially putting an end to a controversial copper mining project and weeks of massive protests that have shut down the nation’s main ports and roads.

Panama celebrates a historic moment today that has been anticipated for years. Although there were initially few of us, we now all know that Panama’s gold is green, according to Serena Vamvas, who has been using Foundation My Sea (Fundación Mi Mar) to resist the mining since 2021.

Celebrating a decision they said would stop the massive copper pit from causing 20 years of environmental harm to Panama’s jungles, protesters with flags flown in front of the courts in Panama City filled the square.

According to Lilian Guevara of the Environmental Advocacy Centre (CIAM), the demonstrations and the outcome acted as a vote on Panama’s environmental future.

Over the phone, Guevara declared, “The people of Panama have decided ‘We don’t want to be a mining country,'” her voice nearly drowned out by the applause. “Instead of sacrificing the most precious and valuable thing we have for a few million in royalties, let’s instead develop a model of sustainable development.”

Concerns that the mining project would result in deforestation and water supply theft spurred the protests, but the movement quickly grew into a more general expression of political anger.

Allegations of corruption surfaced in response to the quick negotiations between the government of President Laurentino Cortizo and the Canadian mining firm First Quantum, and labour unions and Indigenous groups also staged protests.

Small boats were used by protestors to blockade the mine’s port, forcing it to lower its output, and they also stopped the Pan American Highway.

When Cortizo’s attempt to defuse the growing unrest by holding a referendum on the mine’s future failed, the constitutional court was left to handle the situation.

According to mining expert Paul Harris, if the government abandons the project, it will have a significant negative impact on the economy of the Central American nation, which is already losing money from the Panama Canal due to restricted traffic due to the drought. “The minimum royalties guaranteed for the government are $375m a year,” he stated.

75% of Panama’s exports and roughly 3% of the country’s GDP come from the $6.8 billion Cobre mine.

Although Guevara expressed her hope that the movement may shift from the streets to a new stage of civic engagement in order to prevent unnecessary deaths, protestors will not give up on the cause because the mining giant may appeal the ruling.


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