Cobre Panamá power station

From Global Energy Monitor

Cobre Panamá power station (Central termoeléctrica Cobre Panamá) is an operating power station of at least 306-megawatts (MW) in Punta Rincón, Coclé del Norte, Donoso, Colón, Panama with multiple units, some of which are not currently operating. It is also known as PACO power station.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Cobre Panamá power station Punta Rincón, Coclé del Norte, Donoso, Colón, Panama 9.005716, -80.689504 (exact)[1]

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 2 conversion: 9.005716, -80.689504

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology CHP Start year Retired year
Unit 1 operating[2] coal - bituminous 153 subcritical 2018 2025
Unit 2 operating[2] coal - bituminous 153 subcritical 2018 2030
Unit 2 conversion announced[3][4][5][6] fossil gas - natural gas[3] 150[4] unknown 2030[4]

CHP is an abbreviation for Combined Heat and Power. It is a technology that produces electricity and thermal energy at high efficiencies. Coal units track this information in the Captive Use section when known.

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner
Unit 1 Minera Panamá SA [100.0%]
Unit 2 Minera Panamá SA [100.0%]
Unit 2 conversion Minera Panamá SA [100.0%]

Project-level captive use details

  • Captive industry use (heat or power): other metals & mining[4]


The Cobre Panamá plant was originally built to provide energy for the Cobre Panamá mine, a US$7 billion open pit mine with its own ore processing center and port facility that is expected to produce copper, gold, molybdenum and silver over a useful life span of more than 40 years.[7] The current power plant is a Subcritical[8] bituminous coal-fired power station with two 153 MW units.[8] The plant reportedly burns coal from Colombia.[8]

Cobre Panamá's environmental impact report, released in September 2010, stipulated that the power plant would comprise two 150 MW coal-fired units, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at the mine's port facility at Punta Rincón.[9] The mine's potential impact on the surrounding communities and its location, in the heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, prompted serious concerns among environmentalists and local farmers, who organized grassroots protests against the mine.[10]

The mine's port facility was to be constructed on the Caribbean coast north of the mine by the Spanish company Sacyr Vallehermoso[11], with Skoda supplying two 160 MW turbines for the adjacent power plant. Other contractors involved with the project include the engineering firms Sargent & Lundy and CH2M Hill.[12]

As of January 2014, mine developer Minera Panamá and its parent organization First Quantum Minerals had projected that the power station would be operational by the first quarter of 2017.[13] In November 2014, Minera Panamá's Director of Environment and Community Affairs Alberto Casas told La Estrella de Panamá that the project was already 10% complete, and that the company hoped to finish work on the power plant by the end of 2016.[14]

In a June 2015 interview with the Panamanian business news journal Capital Financiero, Cobre Panamá's John Eastwood reported that everything was in place for completion of the power plant by the second quarter of 2017.[15]

The new port facility at Punta Rincón, a key component of the project, was officially inaugurated in August 2015. At the opening ceremony, Jorge Carney, Minera Panamá's liaison with the Panamanian government, announced that the port would initially be used to unload construction materials for the new mine and power plant, and that a dock for unloading coal and loading copper concentrate would be constructed within 12 months.[16][17]

As of April 2016, the Cobre Panama project was 40% complete, with the $600 million, 300MW coal-fired power plant slated to begin generating electricity in mid-2017 and full mining operations scheduled to commence in 2018. Excess power generated by the plant will be sold to the Panamanian government to supply neighboring communities.[18]

As of March 2017, the first unit was scheduled to go online in late 2017, and the second unit in 2018. The overall mine project was at 46% completion. First Quantum plans to begin selling electricity immediately in order to generate capital for the overall project.[19]

The Cobre Panamá project made continued progress throughout 2017. Company officials estimated the mine project to be 50% complete as of May 2017[20][21] and 63% complete at the end of Q3, with the mine on track to open for business in late 2018[22] and make its first export shipment in January 2019.[23] As of July 2017, the first 150 MW unit of the coal-fired power plant was nearly complete and scheduled to go online by the end of the year, with the second 150 MW unit to follow suit in the first half of 2018.[24][25] In February 2018 First Quantum reported the overall mine project to be 70% complete.[26]

The plant's first unit of 153 MW[27] was commissioned in August 2018[27], and the second unit was commissioned in February 2019.[24]

In April 2020 Panama's health ministry ordered the temporary closure of the Cobre Panamá mine following a coronavirus outbreak that resulted in over 100 Covid-19 infections and the death of three miners.[28] However, project owner First Quantum Minerals announced that the Cobre Panamá power station would continue operating throughout the health crisis to supply essential energy to Panama's electricity grid.[29] During the mine's closure, 325 mine workers assisted with power plant operations.[30] First Quantum received government approval to recommence normal mining operations in July 2020.[17]

Planned conversion from coal to natural gas or renewables

As of May 2021, the power station was part of talks for closure or transformation as part of the negotiations for the renewal of concession.[31]

In June 2021, Panamanian president Laurentino Cortizo announced that the country's existing coal plants, including Cobre Panamá, would be retired or converted to cleaner fuels by the end of 2023.[32] As of October 2021, Cobre Panamá was reportedly negotiating with the Panamanian government regarding possible conversion of the plant to run on natural gas.[32] In February 2022 Panama's Minister of Energy, Jorge Rivera, said he expected that plant owner First Quantum Minerals would submit an official conversion proposal by June 2022.[33]

First Quantum, in its 2021 annual report, confirmed that it had "committed to work with the Government of Panama to perform a study into the feasibility of alternative sources of power" - including renewable energy options - at the Cobre Panamá plant throughout 2022 and 2023. The company cited economic, environmental and reputational benefits as key motivators for phasing out coal at the plant, affirming that Cobre Panamá was responsible for nearly 2 Mt of CO2e emissions in 2020, stating that "a shift from reliance on coal power to renewable alternatives... should deliver benefits (including)... stable operating costs and limited additional capital expenditure," and noting that "the continued use of coal for the power provided in Panama could hinder the ability of the Company to take advantage of strategic opportunities or limit access to capital markets, as stakeholder expectations for decarbonisation increase."[34]

In December 2022, Cobre Panamá announced that it had signed a long-term contract with AES Panamá to obtain renewable energy for its mining operations starting in January 2024. However, a company statement made it clear that Cobre Panamá only expected to rely on renewable sources for 30% of its energy by 2025, casting uncertainty on the company's exact plans for fueling the Cobre Panamá power station in coming years.[35][36]

A January 2023 presentation by First Quantum Minerals announced that the company planned to convert Unit 1 to a renewable energy generation unit by 2025.[37] By 2030, the company planned to convert Unit 2 to run on a mix of gas and renewables.[37]

In September 2023, Panama announced that they had joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, and reportedly committed to phasing out coal power generation by the end of 2023.[38] However, as of November 2023, it appeared that the Cobre Panamá power station was still dependent on coal as its primary or sole fuel source.[39]


Legal challenge to Law 9 and negotiation of new contract with Panamanian government

In September 2018 the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) declared unconstitutional Law 9 of February 25, 1997 , which approved the contract between the State and Minera Petaquilla, SA to extract gold and copper in the Coclé mountains. The court's ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed in 2009 by CAIM, the Center for Environmental Impact, which alleged that the adoption of Law 9 violated several articles of the Constitution of the Republic related to the protection of human rights and the conservation of the environment.[41] The government of Panama subsequently released a statement of support for the Cobre Panamá project, and stated that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry considered the concession contract for the mine to be still in effect.[42]

In October 2021, the Panamanian government began negotiating terms of a revised contract with Cobre Panamá's owners. In January 2022, both parties agreed to new provisions including a substantial increase in mining royalties, an end to tax exemptions previously granted, and a guaranteed minimum annual payment of US $375 million from First Quantum Minerals to the Panamanian government.[43]

In December 2022, after First Quantum missed a deadline related to the new tax provisions, the government ordered the company to suspend commercial operations within 10 days and place the mine under "care and maintenance."[44] In response, First Quantum issued a press release stating that it planned to continue normal operations at the mine while resuming formal talks with the government and studying alternate means of resolving the dispute through arbitration and legal channels.[45] As of January 2023, it was not immediately clear what impact this would have on the future of the Cobre Panamá power station.

In February 2023, loading operations at the Cobre Panamá port remained suspended, in accordance with a resolution issued by the Panamá Maritime Authority which required the suspension of operations until proof of certified mechanical calibrations were provided by the owner.[46]

A March 2023 agreement between First Quantum Minerals and the Panamanian government gave the mining company clearance to continue operation for the next 20 years, provided that the company would offer more and better protection for labor and the environment.[47]

2023 contract renewal, protests, and Supreme Court mine closure decree

In October 2023, Panama's government awarded a 20-year contract extension to the Canadian owners of the Cobre Panamá copper mine[48], a controversial decision that prompted major protests[49], including blockades of the company's port that shut down coal deliveries to the power plant and brought mine operations to a virtual standstill in November 2023.[39]

On November 28, 2023, Panama's Supreme Court issued a ruling which deemed operation of the Cobre Panamá mining contract to be unconstitutional.[50] Shortly after the court ordered the closure of the copper mine, Panama's president announced that the government had begun the "transition process for the orderly and safe closure of the mine."[51]

As of January 2024, government officials were already inspecting the mine site to verify compliance with the shutdown order.[52] Following the site visit, Panama's Minister of Business and Industry issued a press release stating that definitive closure of the mine could take up to eight years, due to the need for ongoing work to guarantee the physical and chemical stability of the site.[53] In April 2024, the government conducted three additional inspections of the mine site and its associated infrastructure, including the Cobre Panamá power plant.[54]

Future plans for the Cobre Panamá power station

As of early 2024, with closure of the copper mine already underway, the fate of the Cobre Panamá power station remained in limbo.[55] A January 2024 news report from Panamá America confirmed that the power plant had ceased supplying electricity to the national grid several weeks prior, but was continuing to provide energy for ongoing activities at the mine.[55] Cobre Panamá's initial Preservation and Safe Management Plan noted that the plant was still capable of supplying excess electricity to Panama's grid, which would potentially help to reduce energy costs and alleviate the pressure on hydroelectric generators caused by recent droughts.[55] Debate about the plant's future seemed likely to revolve around the question of whether coal-based power should be strictly banned from the national grid as required by Panamanian government policy, or whether the plant should be allowed to continue operating, given Panama's current shortfall in electricity generation and the pollution mitigation measures already in place, including the use of low-sulphur coal, and the plant's selective catalytic reduction system, coal ash filters and gas purification system.[55]

Articles and Resources


  1.,-80.6921171,1478m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x8fac06933ee7fa1d:0xa5528215488f4b6d!8m2!3d9.0042251!4d-80.6921171!16s%2Fg%2F11cr_7pdt_?entry=tts. Archived from the original on 25 January 2024. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Planta de energía de la mina podría abaratar costos". Panamá América. 2024-01-26. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Archived from the original on 09 July 2022. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |archive-date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2024. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. Archived from the original on 05 December 2022. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |archive-date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2024. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. "Cobre Panama Copper Mine, Donoso District, Panama". Mining Technology. Retrieved 2021-01-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Cobre Panama Power Station". CostaAbajo. Retrieved 2021-01-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. "Estudio de Impacto Ambiental y Social Proyecto Mina de Cobre Panamá (pp 2-1, 2-16)". Minera Panamá (via DocPlayer). September 2010. Retrieved 2023-11-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "Panama: Campesinos Try to Block Canadian Mining Goliaths ,", Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, June 14, 2012.
  11. "Minera Panamá encarga construcción de puerto a Sacyr Vallehermoso,", Telemetro , October 8, 2012.
  12. "Skoda Power wins turbine contract for new coal-fired power plant in Panama". NS Energy. October 10, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "First Quantum Minerals Provides Update on Its Cobre Panama Copper Project and Funding Arrangements". First Quantum. January 28, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. "Panamá se apunta al ‘boom’ del mercado internacional de cobre," La Estrella de Panamá, November 27, 2014.
  15. "$2.000 millones se han invertido en Cobre Panamá," Capital Financiero, June 1, 2015.
  16. "Nuevo puerto de Punta Rincón, en Colón, empieza a funcionar," La Estrella de Panamá, August 26, 2015.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "First Quantum Announces Resumption of Normal Operations at Cobre Panama". First Quantum. July 7, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. "Construcción de la mina en Donoso alcanza 40%," La Estrella de Panamá, April 1, 2016.
  19. Mina de cobre venderá energía, La Prensa, 2 Mar. 2017.
  20. "Cobre Panama copper mine on target for phased-commissioning in 2018", International Mining, 22 May 2017.
  21. "Mina de cobre tiene 50% de avance", La Prensa, 26 Jun 2017.
  22. "Cobre Panamá alcanza 63% de avance y estaría operativo dentro de 12 meses". Mineria Pan-Americana. November 7, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. "Varela visita mina Cobre Panamá", La Estrella de Panamá, 14 Sep 2017.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Tomo III - Plan de Expansión de Transmisión 2019-2033 (p 54)". ETESA. July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. "Avanza una de las minas más ambiciosas de Centroamérica", Minería Pan-Americana, 3 Jul 2017.
  26. First Quantum lifts Cobre Panama capacity 15%; swings to FY17 loss, Creamer Media's Engineering News, Feb. 13, 2018
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Tomo II - Plan Indicativo de Generación 2019-2033 (p 254)". ETESA. June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. "Mina de cobre generó 398 millones de dólares". La Prensa. May 4, 2020.
  29. "650 trabajadores salen de la mina de cobre, luego de ordenarse el cierre temporal del proyecto". La Prensa. April 14, 2020.
  30. "Minera pide al Minsa adelantar reapertura". La Prensa Panamá. June 6, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. "Avanzan las negociaciones para el cierre o reconversión definitiva de centrales a carbón en Panamá". Energía Estratégica. May 12, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Deudas y cambio climático acorralan planta de carbón". Observatorio SAOT (Sociedad, Ambiente y Ordenamiento Territorial) (in español). October 4, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. "Panamá recibirá antes de junio el plan de conversión de la central eléctrica de First Quantum". Minería en Línea. February 9, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. "2021 Annual Report (pp 13, 24, 34)" (PDF). First Quantum Minerals. January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. "Minera Panamá y AES Panamá suscriben un contrato de largo plazo para el suministro de energía". El Capital Financiero. November 30, 2022. {{cite web}}: no-break space character in |title= at position 72 (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  36. "First Quantum and AES sign renewable energy deal for Cobre Panama". International Mining. December 1, 2022.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "RESPONSIBLE GROWTH First Quantum Minerals" (PDF). First Quantum Minerals. Jan. 2023. {{cite news}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  38. “Colombia and Panama Join Growing Coalition of Countries Committed to Phasing Out Coal,” Powering Past Coal Alliance, September 19, 2023
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Exclusive: First Quantum plans maintenance for Panama copper mine amid protests -sources". Reuters. November 20, 2023. Retrieved 2023-11-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  40. "Inspeccionan área de concentrado de cobre en Minera Panamá". En Segundos Panamá. 2024-04-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  41. Corte falla contra concesión minera nueve años tarde, La Prensa, Sep. 25, 2018
  42. First Quantum proceeds with Cobre Panama project despite Supreme Court ruling, CIM Magazine, Oct. 30, 2018
  43. "Panamá presentó un "texto de contrato final" de concesión minera canadiense". Forbes Centroamérica. January 2, 2023.
  44. "Canada's First Quantum says no disruption to Panama ops amid dispute". Reuters. December 28, 2022.
  45. "First Quantum Minerals Provides Update On Status Of Cobre Panamá". First Quantum Minerals. December 28, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  46. "First Quantum suspends loading operations at Cobre Panamá port". Feb. 6, 2023. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  47. "Panama reaches 20-year deal with Canadian copper mine". AP News. March. 8, 2023. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  48. "Panama's president gives final approval to major copper mine contract". Reuters. October 21, 2023. Retrieved 2023-11-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. "Mass protests in Panama to reject new concession for largest copper mine in Central America". El País. October 27, 2023. {{cite web}}: |first= missing |last= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  50. History of a victory for the defense of life in Panama, World Rainforest Movement, December 19, 2023
  51. Panama orders First Quantum’s copper mine closure, Canadian Mining Journal, November 30, 2023
  52. "Gobierno inicia inspección de la mina Cobre Panamá". Revista Estrategia y Negocios. 2024-01-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  53. "Gobierno confirma que Minera Panamá ha cesado labores y solo hay actividades para garantizar estabilidad física y química". Revista Estrategia y Negocios. 2024-01-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  54. "Comisión Intergubernamental realiza primera de tres Inspecciones a Cobre Panamá". ANPanamá Agencia de Noticias. 2024-04-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 55.3 "Planta de energía de la mina podría abaratar costos". Panamá América. 2024-01-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Additional data

To access additional data, including interactive maps of the power stations, downloadable datases, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker and the Global Oil and Gas Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.