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Asia and the Pacific
Western Asia

Panama - November 2023

Supreme Court strikes down controversial mining contract

Following more than a month of mass protests and criticism over its approval process, the Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of Law 406, which granted Canadian company First Quantum Minerals a 20-year concession to extract copper from a biodiverse, protected area. Among other issues, the Court found that the contract violated 25 articles of Panama’s constitution, including the constitutional protection to human rights such as the right to life, health, and to a safe and healthy environment free from pollution. As a result, Minera Panama — Central America's largest open-pit copper mine, will be closed.

Environmental activists, teachers, union leaders and Indigenous Peoples had joined massive protests blocking main highways and port access to the mine.  

Critics argued the contract would negatively impact the environment and access to water for communities, and strongly opposed the lack of public consultation around the bill.

President Laurentino Cortizo said his government would abide by the ruling, while the Canadian company expressed it would seek arbitration, defending the contract’s validity and benefits, including cash inflow and thousands of jobs.

Sources: El Pais, Panama America, La Prensa, La Estrella de Panamá

Primary categories and factors
Rights +1 Rights  (+1)
Access to Justice
Secondary categories and factors
Rights +1 Rights
Civil Liberties
Freedom of Association and Assembly
Rule of Law Rule of Law
Judicial Independence
Participation Participation
Civic Engagement