Panama trade minister resigns after mining contract backlash

By Elida Moreno

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) -Panama’s Trade Minister Federico Alfaro announced his resignation on Thursday days after the country’s top court ruled a contract between the government and Canadian miner First Quantum < FM.TO> was unconstitutional.

The Central American country’s trade ministry led negotiations on a contract between the government and First Quantum to operate a key copper mine, which opponents have deemed as too generous to the miner.

In a resignation letter addressed to the president and shared on social media, Alfaro mentioned the contract, which generated months of protest throughout Panama, as well as the court ruling.

The court’s ruling “could have serious consequences for the country such as the loss of jobs and economic instability, international claims from investors, the impact on the level of investment already announced by the rating agencies,” Alfaro wrote.

President Laurentino Cortizo named Jorge Rivera as Alfaro’s replacement, according to a statement from the president’s office.

Cortizo announced on Tuesday he will follow through with First Quantum’s mine shutdown once the court’s ruling is published in the country’s official gazette, which has not yet happened.

Incoming trade minister Rivera said in a separate public statement the ministry is evaluating actions to comply with the court’s ruling and will start coordination talks with labor and environmental authorities.

(Reporting by Eli Moreno; Writing by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Isabel Woodford and Lincoln Feast.)