First Quantum Warns Environmental Risks Of Idle Copper Storage At Cobre Panamá Mine

Minera Panamá, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM), has raised alarm bells regarding the potential dangers posed by the extended storage of copper concentrate at the Cobre Panamá mine.

In a recent communiqué, the company highlighted the emergence of heightened chemical reactions leading to the production of hazardous gases, coupled with escalating temperatures within the stored material. These developments not only pose significant environmental risks but also jeopardize the health and safety of personnel engaged in care and maintenance activities at the site.

The situation has been compounded by the mandated closure of Cobre Panamá by the Laurentino Cortizo administration in December of last year. Since then, First Quantum has been unable to export the stockpiled copper concentrate, a departure from the typical practice of promptly selling the product overseas to ensure its stability and safety.

Addressing the urgency of the matter, Minera Panamá emphasized the critical need for the immediate transfer of the material to mitigate the identified risks. The company stated its intent to export the copper concentrate promptly upon securing the necessary authorization from the government.

“In response to these concerns and highlighting our commitment to environmental preservation, Cobre Panamá will allocate the proceeds from the sale of the concentrate towards the costs of the site’s Preservation and Safe Management Plan, which amount to between $15 million and $20 million per month,” the company’s release said.

In compliance with a request from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI), Minera Panamá submitted the updated Preservation and Safe Management Plan, along with a comprehensive report detailing the status of the copper concentrate stored on-site, which was processed before operations ceased.

Highlighting its commitment to transparency and cooperation, the mining company underscored the importance of disseminating clear and transparent information to all stakeholders involved.

“Transparency and cooperation are fundamental elements of our approach to the responsible and safe management of this situation, seeking to benefit all the parties involved,” the statement concluded.

The development comes after a series of potential mine divestments. Earlier this year, the company was reportedly engaged in discussions to sell a stake in its Zambian copper mines to Chinese state-owned Jiangxi Copper Corp. This was after Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX) was reported to be in talks with major investors to gauge support for a potential takeover.

The Canadian miner is also reportedly looking to sell its Las Cruces mine in Spain with Grupo Mexico, led by billionaire German Larrea, said to be interested in buying it to expand its operations in Europe, after a failed attempt in 2021.

Also in January, First Quantum has temporarily stopped mining at its Ravensthorpe nickel project in Western Australia. This decision is part of a three-year plan to pause mining but continue making nickel concentrate from existing stocks. The company’s Australian division explained that low nickel prices in 2023 and high operating costs in Western Australia led to this move.

First Quantum Minerals last traded at $15.38 on the TSX.


Information for this story was found via Mining.com and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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