Central America’s biggest mine faces closure over tax spat – Global

Rising up through the lush vegetation of Panama’s Caribbean coast, a 125-meter chimney serves as a beacon for helicopters approaching the largest mine in Central America, which faces closure next week over a contract dispute.

Gigantic 400-tonne trucks slowly wind around the stepped slopes of a massive gash in the earth one kilometer wide, the ochre and grey of the copper mine standing in stark contrast to the verdant jungle surrounding it.

The activity could grind to an expensive halt in a matter of days.

Canadian mining giant First Quantum Minerals has until next Wednesday to sign a new contract with the government, which is demanding the company multiply the taxes it pays by 10.

If the parties do not agree, the disagreement could halt the work of a mining project considered the largest private investment in Panama’s history, contributing four percent of the country’s GDP and 75 percent of export revenues.

“We have been given a deadline to sign the new contract by December 14, to accept the new terms,” First Quantum’s manager in Panama, Keith Green, who is Scottish, told AFP.

“We intend to reach an agreement, but negotiations are a bit deadlocked,” he added.

First Quantum, one of the largest copper miners in the world, began commercial copper production at the site in Donoso in 2019, through its subsidiary Minera Panama.

It has spent $10 billion on earthworks, construction buildings to house more than 7,000 employees, the purchase of heavy machinery, a power plant, a port for deep-draft merchant ships, access roads, and re-forestation plans.

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