Panama gives Canada’s First Quantum go-ahead to operate port terminal

FILE PHOTO: Cobre Panama mine owned by First Quantum Minerals in Donoso

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama’s Maritime Authority has lifted a suspension on First Quantum Minerals’ operations at the port of Punta Rincon, which the Canadian company uses to export copper concentrate from its key Cobre Panama mine, company sources said late on Friday.

Two spokespersons for Minera Panama, First Quantum’s Panama unit, told Reuters the suspension dated Jan. 26 had been ended, which was confirmed by a source at the Maritime Authority.

The company, which spent weeks at loggerheads with Panama over Cobre Panama, had said that once the suspension ended, it would be able to resume activity at the port quickly.

The Panamanian government and First Quantum said on Wednesday they had agreed on the final text for a new contract on the operations of Cobre Panama, which accounts for about 3.5% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Because it could not work at Punta Rincon, First Quantum halted ore processing operations on Feb. 23 after reaching the maximum storage level of copper concentrate – about 100,000 tonnes – at the mine in Panama’s Donoso district.

About 60% of the copper concentrate exported through Punta Rincon is destined for factories in China. The rest is exported to other markets including Spain and Germany.

(This March 11 story has been corrected to say that the maximum storage level is 100,000 tonnes, not 10,000 tonnes, in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Milagro Vallecillos; Editing by Daniel Wallis)