Panamanian lawmakers on Thursday voted by a wide margin to revoke a 1960s-era law that had prohibited foreign investment in Panama’s mining sector. It is widely speculated that the change will allow Canadian mining company Inmet to now move forward with plans to build Central America’s largest copper mine.
"What we're trying to do is develop regions, create jobs and reduce poverty," said National Assembly leader Jose Muñoz of President Martinelli's Democratic Change party in response to angry remarks by protestors that made their way into the halls of Congress. Opposition to the law is driven by fears that new mining operations will damage farmland and water supplies in rural areas. President Martinelli has in the past spoken out against the mining law and is now expected to sign the changes into law.
In addition to the Inmet copper project, which is projected to require a $5 billion investment in operations that will eventually produce 250,000 metric tons of copper a year, interest has also been shown from companies in South Korea and Singapore, among others.