Amid the biggest social unrest to hit Panama since protests in the 1980s against dictator Manuel Noriega, the National Assembly passed a law banning new mining concessions for metal exploration or extraction.
President Laurentino Cortizo promulgated the law shortly thereafter.
The move follows two weeks of demonstrations that have blocked roads and starved shops of supplies.
The protests, which continued on Friday, broke out on October 20 after Congress approved a law that allows Vancouver-based First Quantum Minerals to operate Central America's biggest open pit copper mine for 20 years, with an option to extend for another two decades.
Demonstrators immediately swelled into the small Central American country's streets to oppose the contract, setting up blockades in the capital and other cities.
Some blocked the Pan-American highway that connects Panama with the rest of Central America.
Protesters concerned over the potential environmental impacts of the First Quantum mine later upped their demands to include a moratorium on all new mining contracts.
The ban approved Friday for an indeterminate period of time does not affect the already-signed First Quantum deal -- the constitutionality of which is being reviewed instead by Panama's Supreme Court.
But it will pause 103 mining concessions that were under review, and the renewal of 15 other existing contracts, according to Panama's CIAM environmental advocacy center, an NGO.
- 'Great achievement' -
Activist Raisa Banfield described Friday's decision as "a great achievement for a country that had been delivered to mining."
The government has defended the First Quantum contract, saying the mine would bring in some $375 million for the state annually.
It has also warned that 8,000 direct jobs and some 40,000 indirect ones would be lost if the mine were to close.
This did not appease protesters who continued their blockades, prompting the president to propose a referendum on the contract.
That idea was dismissed by Panama's electoral tribunal, which would have been responsible for organizing the plebiscite.
The government and parliament have since agreed to let the Supreme Court make the final decision on the validity of the contract. It is not known when the court will rule.
First Quantum, which has invested more than $10 billion in Panama, says it contributes five percent of the country's GDP.
Since opening in February 2019, the mine has produced about 300,000 tons of copper concentrate per year.
"The country is saying 'no' not only to the contract, but to this harmful form of unsustainable economic development," CIAM director Lilian Guevara told AFP.
"Mining activity, and this project in particular, is totally disproportionate in a small, tropical country with very high biodiversity and dependence on ecosystems, and vulnerable to climate change," she said.
Space Technology News - Applications and Research
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters|
Australian school students are experimenting with 'space veggies' in a NASA initiative
NASA updates Commercial Crew planning manifest
Russian space boss warns ISS equipment beyond warranty
Putin says first segment of ISS replacement to orbit by 2027
SpaceX launches 23 Starlink Internet satellites after aborted mission
Hot summer for Europe's reusable rocket engine
Nighttime rehearsal for Ariane 6 towards first flight
Marking 25 Years since Deep Space 1 kickstarted Ion propulsion
Scientists discover molten layer covering Martian core
NASA is locating ice on Mars with this new map
Mystery of the Martian core solved
Ascending Fang Turret: Sols 3991-3993
Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 'successful' mission
China discloses tasks of Shenzhou-17 crewed space mission
Shenzhou 17 docks with Tiangong Space Station
China able, ready to invite foreign astronauts to its space station
New technologies for the future of European space|
Follow NASA's Starling Swarm in Real Time
Fugro SpAARC's operations set to grow with new funding from Western Australian Govt
French Space Days India 2023 celebrates Indo-French collaboration
NASA-ISRO radar mission to provide dynamic view of forests, wetlands
Space rocks and asteroid dust are pricey, but these aren't the most expensive materials used in science
NRL ISS Mission seeks new bioinspired materials
The tech to recycle clothes is only just being invented
ET phone Dublin? Astrophysicists scan the Galaxy for signs of life
Exoplanet-informed research helps search for radio technosignatures
Webb detects tiny quartz crystals in clouds of hot gas giant
Extreme habitats: Microbial life in Old Faithful Geyser
Salts and organics observed on Ganymede's surface by June
New jet stream discovered in Jupiter's upper atmosphere
Uranus aurora discovery offers clues to habitable icy worlds
How NASA is protecting Europa Clipper from space radiation
|Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters|