Cobre Panamá power station

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Cobre Panamá power station is a 300-megawatt (MW), two-unit coal-fired power plant in Punta Rincón, Coclé del Norte, Donoso District, Colón, Panama.


The map below shows the location of the plant near Punta Rincón.

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The 300 to 320 MW Cobre Panamá plant, also known as the Paco plant, would provide energy for the new Cobre Panamá mine, a US$7 billion open pit mine, ore processing center and port facility scheduled to begin producing copper, gold, molybdenum and silver in 2017.[1] Once operational, it will be the world's largest copper mine.

The mine's potential impact on the surrounding communities and its location, in the heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, have prompted serious concerns among environmentalists and local farmers, who have organized grassroots protests against the mine.[2]

The mine's port facility will be constructed on the Caribbean coast north of the mine by the Spanish company Sacyr Vallehermoso.[3] Skoda will supply two 160 MW turbines for the adjacent power plant. Other contractors involved with the project include the engineering firms Sargent & Lundy and CH2M Hill.[4][5]

As of January 2014, mine developer Minera Panamá and its parent organization First Quantum Minerals projected that the power station would be operational by the first quarter of 2017[6], with excess electricity from the plant being fed into Panama's national grid.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

The Cobre Panamá project made continued progress throughout 2017. Company officials estimated the mine project to be 50% complete as of May 2017[13][14] and 63% complete at the end of Q3, with the mine on track to open for business in late 2018[15] and make its first export shipment in January 2019.[16] 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.[17] In February 2018 First Quantum reported the overall mine project to be 70% complete.[18] The plant was commissioned in August 2018.[19]

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.[20] However, project owner First Quantum Minerals announced that the Cobre Panamá power station would continue to operate throughout the health crisis to supply essential energy to Panama's electricity grid.[21]

Legal Challenge to Law 9

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.[22] The government of Panama subsequently released a statement of support for the Cobre project, and stated that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry considered the concession contract for the mine to be still in effect.[23]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Minera Panamá
  • Parent company: First Quantum Minerals Ltd
  • Location: Punta Rincón, Coclé del Norte, Donoso District, Colón, Panama
  • Coordinates: 9.005716, -80.689504 (exact)
  • Status: Operating
  • Gross Capacity:
    • Unit 1: 150 MW
    • Unit 2: 150 MW
  • Type: Subcritical
  • Projected in service: 2018
  • Coal Type:
  • Coal Source: Imported
  • Source of financing:

Articles and resources


  1. "Cobre Panama Copper Mine, Panama,", Mining Technology website, accessed April 2014.
  2. "Panama: Campesinos Try to Block Canadian Mining Goliaths ,", Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, June 14, 2012.
  3. "Minera Panamá encarga construcción de puerto a Sacyr Vallehermoso,", Telemetro , October 8, 2012.
  4. "Skoda Power wins turbine contract for new coal-fired power plant in Panama,", Energy Business Review , October 11, 2012.
  5. "Project Detail: Paco Thermal Power Plant,", LNT-Sargent & Lundy website, accessed April 2014.
  6. "First Quantum Minerals Provides Update on Its Cobre Panama Copper Project and Funding Arrangements,", First Quantum Minerals press release, January 28, 2014.
  7. "Cobre Panama Project Progressing in Punta Rincón,", Minera Panamá press release, October 31, 2013.
  8. "Panamá se apunta al ‘boom’ del mercado internacional de cobre," La Estrella de Panamá, November 27, 2014.
  9. "$2.000 millones se han invertido en Cobre Panamá," Capital Financiero, June 1, 2015.
  10. "Nuevo puerto de Punta Rincón, en Colón, empieza a funcionar," La Estrella de Panamá, August 26, 2015.
  11. "Construcción de la mina en Donoso alcanza 40%," La Estrella de Panamá, April 1, 2016.
  12. Mina de cobre venderá energía, La Prensa, 2 Mar. 2017.
  13. "Cobre Panama copper mine on target for phased-commissioning in 2018", International Mining, 22 May 2017.
  14. "Mina de cobre tiene 50% de avance", La Prensa, 26 Jun 2017.
  15. "Cobre Panamá alcanza 63% de avance y puesta en marcha comenzaría dentro de los próximos 12 meses", Latinominería, 2 Nov 2017.
  16. "Varela visita mina Cobre Panamá", La Estrella de Panamá, 14 Sep 2017.
  17. "Avanza una de las minas más ambiciosas de Centroamérica", Minería Pan-Americana, 3 Jul 2017.
  18. First Quantum lifts Cobre Panama capacity 15%; swings to FY17 loss, Creamer Media's Engineering News, Feb. 13, 2018
  20. "Mina de cobre generó 398 millones de dólares". La Prensa. May 4, 2020.
  21. "650 trabajadores salen de la mina de cobre, luego de ordenarse el cierre temporal del proyecto". La Prensa. April 14, 2020.
  22. Corte falla contra concesión minera nueve años tarde, La Prensa, Sep. 25, 2018
  23. First Quantum proceeds with Cobre Panama project despite Supreme Court ruling, CIM Magazine, Oct. 30, 2018

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External resources