Panama: Supreme Court declares mining contract with Canadian company unconstitutional
In Panama, the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional a law ratifying a gigantic mining contract with a Canadian company. This judgment was particularly eagerly awaited, after more than a month of a crisis that has largely blocked activity throughout the country.
Protesters celebrate the Panamanian Supreme Court's decision in Panama City on Nov. 28, 2023. AP - Arnulfo Franco
By: RFI Follow
With our correspondent in Panama, Grégoire Pourtier
Strikers and demonstrators celebrated the announcement in the early hours of Tuesday. Opponents of the mining project had been taking turns 24 hours a day in front of the Supreme Court for more than two weeks, and the pressure had been mounted even more since Friday, when the nine justices began to meet, debating fiercely, sometimes into the night.
In the end, they unanimously ruled that the mining contract signed by the Panamanian government with the Canadian company Quantum Minerals was unconstitutional.
This contract, ratified by an act of Parliament, but strongly criticized for its environmental consequences, provoked the anger of the population, which mobilized very widely to make itself heard, thanks to traffic blockades in the city and on national roads, as well as many sectors on strike.
An equivalent contract declared unconstitutional in 2017
The Supreme Court's decision does not come as a huge surprise since, already in 2017, it had declared an equivalent contract for the same mining project unconstitutional. But the authorities waited five years before implementing the ruling, and copper mining was able to start even before a new contract was negotiated.
Once again, the dispute could continue, as Quantum Minerals had warned in recent days that it would file appeals for international arbitration. The situation is therefore not yet fully resolved, especially since the Panamanian authorities must now comply with this decision, and will especially have to impose it on the Canadian company, which does not intend to give up the mine, which has been in operation since 2019 and which was supposed to operate for another 20 years, renewable for another 20 years.
Politically, it is a very strong challenge to the current government of Nito Cortizo.
Jean Foyer, Research Fellow at Creda (Centre for Research and Documentation on Latin America) of the CNRS
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