Panama says No to Mining

Panamanians Raise their Voices for a Mining-Free Panama

Panamanians Raise their Voices for a Mining-Free Panama

Panama has witnessed a week of constant protests across the nation against the extraction of copper and other minerals in Donoso, Colón. Organized civil society, which includes teachers, workers, students, and others, have taken to the streets to demand that the president repeal Law 406.

After the massive protests, the Executive Branch signed an executive decree on the evening of Saturday, October 28, which prohibits the issuance of new licenses for the exploration, or exploitation of metallic minerals throughout the national territory.

This measure was not well received by Panamanians who advocate for a ‘Mining-Free Panama’ and request a mining moratorium. On Sunday, President Cortizo made an announcement in a national broadcast.

 

 

Sunday Night’s Announcement: Consulta Popular

The Head of State addressed the nation and expressed his respect for those who oppose the Contract, which has been in place for 32 years since its inception in 1991.

“Panamanian residents, today I want to address once again the events we are experiencing in our country. Regarding Law 406 of the mining contract, which was born in 1991, 32 years ago, I have listened with respect to those who oppose the contract with Minera Panama.

I believe in democracy, and as the president, I understand the voices that express their concerns on this matter. For this reason, and to ensure that the majority’s will is expressed in the most democratic way, I will request the Electoral Tribunal to convene a popular vote on Sunday, December 17, 2023, for Panamanians to decide with the power of their vote whether to repeal Law 406 of the mining contract.

Through citizen participation via the vote, we can validate the will of the people, and the result will be binding. The people are sovereign,” said President Cortizo.

In response to Cortizo’s speech, SUNTRACS, Panama, posted this reaction:

“NO+DECEPTIONS, repeal the mining sellout law NOW and close the mine.”

 

 

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A post shared by SuntracsPanama? (@suntracspanama)

 

Late, But A Step in the Right Direction

“The referendum should have taken place earlier. Nevertheless, it is an important step to LEGITIMIZE such a significant decision. A MASSIVE vote to repeal it. Tomorrow, I will be reintroducing the bill for the repeal of the Mining Contract that was not accepted on Thursday,” said Member of Panama’s Parliament, Edison Broce via “X.”

 

 

“The Solution is in Your Hands”

 

 

Amid the protests, young leaders have been at the forefront, organizing marches to oppose the mining contract. One notable example is Camila Aybar.

At 27 years old, Camila Aybar, who humorously refers to herself as the “imperfect environmentalist” on her Instagram account, is a prominent figure among the youth leaders. She is a key member of the youth group “Sal de las Redes” (Step Out of Social Media), which advocates for protests against mining development in Panama.

“Sal de las Redes” has emerged from the discontent shared by generations of Panamanians who strongly disapprove of mining activities in the country. The movement encourages young individuals to disconnect from their social media platforms and take to the streets, demonstrating to the world that a new generation of Panamanians is determined to protect the country’s biodiversity.

 

 

According to La Estrella de Panama, Camila is part of a collective of young activists who promote cultural, social, and civic engagement. They have now united with greater determination to mobilize the entire nation against mining.

Working alongside fourteen other youth leaders, Aybar has successfully rallied almost 40,000 Panamanians to the streets and avenues daily for the past week. They have also garnered the support of more than 500 young people, maintaining continuous communication and coordination of protest activities through WhatsApp groups and virtual meetings.

Their primary objective is crystal clear: They are demanding that the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) expeditiously declares the mining contract between the government and the Canadian company First Quantum Minerals, which allows the exploitation of the Cobre Panama mine on the Caribbean coast, as unconstitutional. This contract is set to last for 20 years, with the possibility of a 20-year extension.

“As young individuals, we insist that the Court fulfills its duties with urgency,” she stated.

Their motivation stems from the necessity to preserve the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a network of protected areas extending from Mexico to Panama, which intersects with the mining project. In the activists’ perspective, this corridor’s survival is at stake if mining activities continue while awaiting a court decision for another two decades.

These young activists have taken over public spaces as a means of applying pressure and have committed to not leaving until their objective of canceling the mining contract is achieved.

“This will only end with the cancellation of the mining contract,” the young activist emphatically declared.

“No Nos Vamos a Cansar”

“Panama is not a mining country. We have many other sectors that we can develop,” youth march leader Alfredo Pittí told La Estrella de Panamá.

That’s why the activist believes it is necessary to create a plan for the closure of the mine and to avoid granting new concessions. “We have to be responsible with this mine, which is already operational, and we must begin a gradual closure of its operations to prevent potential international arbitrations and an environmental disaster.”

 

 

“This contract was the trigger for all the social discontent,” stated Alfredo Pittí, the 30-year-old the leader of Relevo.

“We demand that this contract be declared unconstitutional, that a mining moratorium be imposed, and that the people decide whether they want mining concessions in their territory or not,” the activist told this publication.

Panamanians Protest Abroad

Panamanians in different parts of the world have taken to the streets to protest against Law 406, which establishes the mining contract between the government and the company Minera Panama.

On Sunday, protesters left banners at the Panamanian consulate in Canada. Meanwhile, another group of people in Orlando, Florida expressed their discontent with mining.

“Panama is not for sale. Down with the PRD [Revolutionary Democratic Party]” were some of the slogans of the supporters who held Panamanian flags as a show of support for those who want a ‘Mining-Free Panama.’

In London, a group of young people chanted slogans in front of the Panamanian embassy and displayed banners with messages like, “Panama’s gold is green.”

Meanwhile, in Miami, they shouted slogans against the government, proclaiming “Panama is not for sale; Panama is to be defended.”

On Saturday, October 28, Panamanians in Toronto, Canada held a rally at the offices of First Quantum Minerals.

On the Right to Safely Protest

“The Panamanian people have taken to the streets to protest the sudden and forced IMPOSITION of the mining contract. In a democracy, the right to protest is respected. The Rule of Law and individual and collective guarantees are at risk.Together, we defend Panama,” posted Erika Mouynes on her “X” account.

 

 


Soledad Quartucci | CEO/Founder, Latina Republic

Latina Republic is dedicated to promoting regional understanding through compelling narratives, articles, interviews, and reports that emanate from the heart of the Americas. Our foremost goal is to facilitate constructive dialogue by illuminating local viewpoints frequently overshadowed by mainstream media. Our mission is to equip all stakeholders with essential insights for addressing regional issues, thus empowering them in their efforts. We are committed to portraying the victories and hardships of everyday life in Latin America, while also chronicling the progression of social movements and amplifying the voices of those at the forefront of change.