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Canadian miner First Quantum’s FM-T local unit in Panama said on Friday it is “deeply concerned” about protests announced for Jan. 9 to take over its closed copper mine and urged the government to take action to guarantee security at the site.

The union representing workers at the company’s Cobre Panama mine warned earlier this week of the plan by the separate SUNTRACS union and an allied group to “invade” the site, in the latest faceoff over the mine that provoked nationwide protests last year.

Panama saw large protests against First Quantum’s controversial contract to operate the lucrative Cobre Panama mine that was approved by the government in October. Protesters argued it was too favourable to the miner.

In November, the Central American country’s top court ruled the contract unconstitutional, determining that it violated over 20 articles of the constitution and prompting the government to order its closure.

First Quantum subsequently suspended commercial production at the mine and put it into care and maintenance mode, but it still has equipment and workers at the site.

“The safety of our employees, neighbouring communities and the protection of the environment remains our priority,” the company said in the statement.

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