The Canadian company behind the Cobre Panamá copper mine, which will be a major driver of the Panama economy for years, announced last week that it may dramatically extend the life of the mine.
Executives of First Quantum Minerals Ltd. said three additional pits have been identified with copper, which they named Balboa, Botija Abajo, and Río Medio. The new finds means that the project may be even more lucrative than originally thought, and the mining operation will team with the Panama Canal to create a strong foundation for Panama’s economy for decades. Originally thought to be a 40-year operation, it could be part of Panama for up to 70 years, La Estrella de Panama reports.
The mine, located in the province of Colón, already represents 3.5 percent of Panama’s gross domestic product and 4 percent of production, according to La Estrella de Panama. The project was first approved in 1997 but has only cranked up to full operations in the last two years. But the initial investment in infrastructure, facilities, and jobs have already surpassed $6.7 billion, making it the largest private investment in Panama’s history, the paper reports.
While some aspects of the mining business have been controversial the paper also notes that Cobre Panama “maintains an active relationship with its neighboring communities,” helping to build streets and medical centers in the region, in addition to employing thousands of Panamanians.
The mine was on track to produce 320,000 tons of copper in 2020 until the pandemic hit. But executives said in a presentation last week that operations should return to full capacity in 2021.