First Quantum and Panama Government agree on draft contract for Cobre Panama

First Quantum Minerals Ltd and its Panamanian subsidiary, Minera Panamá, S.A. (MPSA), have agreed and finalised the draft of a concession contract with the Government of Panamá related to continuing operations at the Cobre Panamá copper-gold mine.

The Proposed Concession Contract meets the objectives outlined by the Panamanian Government in January 2022 related to government revenues, environmental protections and labour standards, according to FQM. It also provides legal protections necessary to both parties to ensure durability and stability.

The contract is subject to a 30-day public consultation process and approvals by the Panamanian Cabinet, Comptroller General of the Republic and the National Assembly. The Proposed Concession Contract will have an initial 20-year term, with a 20-year extension option and additional extensions for the life of mine.

Additionally, the Panamá Maritime Authority has confirmed it will issue a resolution today for MPSA to resume concentrate loading operations at the Punta Rincón port. Loading operations were halted back in January with FQM saying the reason was tied to allegations its scale was improperly calibrated. Soon after this, First Quantum halted ore processing operations, saying the action was a result of the Panamá Maritime Authority’s refusal to permit copper concentrate loading operations at the mine’s port, Punta Rincón, in accordance. Ore processing is expected to resume and restore the mine to full production levels over the next several days.

The two companies have been engaged in a long-running contract dispute that hinges on disagreements over tax rates and royalties at the Cobre Panama mine.

The proposed contract will include the following principal economic terms once it takes effect:

  • Payment by MPSA of $375 million plus an additional $20 million to cover taxes and royalties up to the year-end 2022
  • Payment by MPSA starting in 2023 of an annual minimum contribution of $375 million in government income, comprised of corporate taxes, withholding taxes and a profit-based mineral royalty of 12 to 16 percent, with downside protections;
  • Downside protections to the annual minimum contribution under the following conditions:
    • Until the end of 2025, copper price below $3.25 per pound; and
    • From 2026 and beyond, a total tax contribution for that year of less than $300 million.
  • Applicable royalty rate (the operating margin and the effective royalty rate) at various operating margins as shown below:
    • 0-20% – 12%
    • >20-30% – 13%
    • >30-40% – 14%
    • >40-50% – 15%
    • > 50 – 16%
  • Application of the general regime of income tax, including deductions for depletion, and withholding taxes in Panamá.

Tristan Pascall, Chief Executive Officer, said: “After a lengthy and arduous negotiation process, the finalised Proposed Concession Contract outlines the basis for the future of Cobre Panamá for all stakeholders, including the government, our investors and the country of Panamá. I am pleased that we now have a pathway to continuing our ongoing substantial investments in the country. I wish to thank our Panamanian and international employees and their families and our suppliers for their patience and resilience during this time. We now await formal approval of the Proposed Concession Contract and look forward to a long and constructive partnership with the Government of Panamá for many years to come.”