Coffee, Copper, and Casa Pintada

There are many surprising things about Panama, especially considering we are such a small country.

For example, forget Juan Valdez, Panama has the best coffee in the world. Our chocolate is also world-class—next time you’re in Panama City, try La Praline Chocolatier. We are home to some incredible athletes. Even with little more than four million residents, Panamanians are often on a global stage at some of the most important international sporting events. Remember last year’s World Cup? Panama was there. Later this month, proud Panamanian and former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the only player ever to be unanimously selected.

Mariano Rivera

Our geography is unlike anywhere else. Within a day’s drive, you can enjoy the energy of a modern city and white sandy beaches that face both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Panama’s lush rainforests boast more identified bird species than all of North America combined. If you want to enjoy the stunning views of the Continental Divide, hike up Panama’s non-active volcano, Baru. Of course, don’t forget the Panama Canal, one of the most amazing engineering feats of all time.

Given the incredible things that Panama has to offer, it didn’t come as much of a shock when I learned that Panama is also home to one of the largest copper mines in the world, with enough mineral deposits to remain active for 34 consecutive years. The mine has been under construction for over six years. Earlier this year the “first milling” occurred, making the mine officially operational. In June 2019, the first shipment of concentrate left the Port of Punta Rincon en route to China. Once completely engaged, the mine is expected to generate more of Panama’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than the Panama Canal, exporting approximately $2 billion annually (4% of GDP).

The Cobre Panama mine is one of the largest copper mines in the world.

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals is a highly respected and rapidly growing minerals producer present in nine countries and on five continents. They announced recently that they will be hiring up to 7,000 individuals to continue construction and run the massive copper mine. Cobre Panama is located four hours by car from Panama City and only 12 miles from the Caribbean coast. The mine is spread over 33,606 acres with 11,000 of those acres designated as green space to support the area’s wildlife.

“We will maintain a workforce of 2,500 employees once the mine is completely operational,” said First Quantum’s Global Exploration Director, Mike Christie. “That will be for a minimum of 34 years. Everything about this mine is supersized.”

First Quantum is actively hiring for the Cobre Panama project. “Initially we will concentrate on hiring construction workers, but we are also hiring geologists, engineers, construction specialists, maintenance teams, lawyers, and IT experts,” said the First Quantum hiring team for Panama. “Our opportunities are remarkable, and we are recruiting world-wide, but we need to be able to provide high-quality options for the worker and their family.”

Employees of the Cobre Panama project are anxiously waiting for new housing to be constructed. Homes in the new Casa Pintada complex will be interspersed among retail, restaurants, bike and pedestrian paths, and green space.

First Quantum recognizes a main problem with luring highly skilled talent to Cobre Panama is the location. The mine is located in a remote section of the country. The closest residential options are, at minimum, two driving hours from the mine in the town Penonomé. Other options are three hours to Coronado-Gorgona and four hours into Panama City.

The mine employees have been scrambling for housing since construction on the mine began almost five years ago, but it had not reached critical mass until the mine became operational.

“I’m one of the lucky ones, because I am an expat,” one miner told me recently. “I have a room, even though it’s the size of a small bathroom, somewhat damp, and without anything I could use for distraction—not even a working television. I love the work, the area is beautiful, and I get to live alone in my little room. Lots of the other miners share accommodations simply because there aren’t enough residences,” he continued.

Additionally, because there isn’t enough residential space, many of the miners are separated from their families. “I’d love to see my wife and son more, absolutely, but since there’s no room here they live in Coronado, three hours away,” he said.

First Quantum, Global Director, Mike Christie said: “We represent the largest private investment in Panama, and we are generating thousands of jobs for Panamanian families. We have programs for the sustainable development of nearby communities, and we comply with the commitments of the environmental impact studies, but we also need housing. There is a human foot-print.”

There have been several proposals to build new housing in the area and one of those projects offers tremendous investment opportunities: Casa Pintada. First Quantum has begun working with one of Panama’s leading real estate developers, Empresas Bern to create Casa Pintada. Five hundred new residences are being built to accommodate some of the workers and their families. Casa Pintada, which translates to “painted house,” will also have 100 retail spaces and over 40,000 square feet of green space.

Construction on Casa Pintada has already begun. The development will include all levels of schools, parking, and a bus terminal running between the complex and the copper mine. Services such as internet, cable, electrical, and garbage disposal will be part of the complex as well as an independent water treatment plant, wide pedestrian and bike paths, and a hotel. A separate police and medical emergency force will also be on-site.

The units, which will be compact and range from around 462 to 613 square feet, are only open to investors. Investors will own the units, working with a property management company to find tenants, who will rent through First Quantum’s on-site management team.

Pre-construction pricing on the studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments is still available. Investors can utilize builder financing at 8% APR for up to five years and 50% cash down. Return on Investment (ROI) is projected at 10% annually. Casa Pintada is an amazing opportunity and I’d love to discuss more details with interested investors. Just give me a call or drop me a line!

The entire Casa Pintada residential complex will be built in four stages and will include a courtyard and hotel. Only the first and second units are currently on offer.