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Panama minister expects contract with First Quantum will get green light

Kitco News

March 10 (Reuters) - Panama's trade minister expects the remaining authorities in the Central American nation will approve the text of an agreement reached with Canada's First Quantum Minerals to regulate its operations at a major copper mine.

The contract meets "the best interests for the country," Minister Federico Alfaro Boyd told Reuters on Friday, adding it limits the firm's tax credits to a maximum of $35 million per year for the life of the 20-year contract, from a previous request of $1.2 billion.

A First Quantum spokesperson declined to comment on the remarks.

Panama's government and the Canadian miner agreed on the final text for a contract to operate the Cobre Panama mine on Wednesday.

The minister said the contract could be terminated if there is proven corruption by the company, if it fails to make payments to the government or does not meet environmental agreements.

The proposed draft is subject to a 30-day public consultation process and approval by the Panamanian Cabinet, Comptroller General and the National Assembly.

Asked about the maritime authority of Panama's decision to ban First Quantum's cargo operations in a port, which prompted a halt in operations, the minister said it was a separate issue and that the new contract is solid enough to guarantee operational continuity.

First Quantum Chief Executive Officer Tristan Pascall told Reuters on Wednesday he met with Panama's president after finalizing the text and ensured it guarantees "stable and durable" operations.

Panama's trade official said he is "optimistic" the contract will remain in place for the 20 years stipulated, with the option for a 20-year renewal.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire in Mexico City Editing by Brendan O'Boyle and Matthew Lewis)

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