A 77-year-old man shot two people while attempting to drive through a blockade protesting against the First Quantum Minerals Ltd.’s (TSX: FM) mine contract.
On Tuesday, Panama’s attorney general said via X that Kenneth Darlington had been arrested in connection to the deaths but did not confirm the cause of death.
However, a video captured Darlington carrying a weapon and removing a tire from the highway where protests occurred in the Chame District of Panama. Darlington, a lawyer and professor, was identified in the video.
The victims –Abdiel Diaz and Ivan Mendoza– were present in the blockade when they were shot, resulting in one on-site fatality and the other passing away in the hospital.
Darlington, had been detained in 2005 for the possession of various assault weapons, including two M-1 rifles, ten pistols, one rifle, two revolvers, one shotgun, and AK-47 and M-16 ammunition. He was released on bail and claimed that these weapons were part of a collection. According to local reports, he has been linked to Panamanian accountant Marc Harris, who was convicted of money laundering and tax evasion in the United States.
Local authorities have initiated an investigation into the incident, leaving the Chame community deeply unsettled. Communities are on high alert, fearing the possibility of similar incidents in the future and the potential implications for public safety and the right to peaceful protest.
La Policía Nacional aprehende a un adulto mayor presuntamente vinculado a un hecho registrado registrado en el Distrito de Chame, donde dos personas pierden la vida. pic.twitter.com/fcvTTrV8BF
— Policía Nacional (@ProtegeryServir) November 7, 2023
#ULTIMAHORA 🇵🇦 Tragedia en Panamá: Un hombre de 77 años, dispara contra manifestantes en Chame, causando dos muertes. Las víctimas protestaban por un contrato minero.
Noticia completa en los comentarios 👇 pic.twitter.com/stcZCB8oaE
— Actualidad Viral (@ActualidaViral) November 8, 2023
The protests have continued into their third week since the contract with the miner’s subsidiary, Minera Panama, was officially ratified. This contract grants the miner a 20-year extension for copper extraction from its open-pit mine.
Protestors argue that this project poses a significant environmental threat, leading to the establishment of road blockades as a direct result of these protests.
At the end of October, President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen announced a referendum to determine whether the contract should be revoked, scheduled for December 17.
On Friday last week, First Quantum responded to recent developments in Panama, where the National Assembly discussed Bill 1109 and Bill 1110.
Bill 1109 is related to a popular consultation on Law 406 but saw no further debates after the initial session.
Bill 1110, initially proposing a mining concession moratorium, went through amendments and debates, ultimately returning to the second debate without the repeal of Law 406. Several lawsuits challenging Law 406’s constitutionality have been filed, with at least four admitted. While the Cobre Panama mine’s production remains unaffected, protests and road blockades have caused operational disruptions and supply shortages.
“First Quantum is a responsible miner and takes its obligations in this regard very seriously,” said the miner in a statement. “The company respects its legal obligations, both local and international, and conforms to high standards of ethical behaviour in its business conduct.”