Panama’s government formally ordered First Quantum Minerals Ltd. to end all operations at its US$10-billion copper mine in the country, according to the Canadian company’s local unit.

Panama’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry ordered the metals producer to “end extraction, processing, refining, transportation, export and sales activities,” the company said in a Friday statement. The move follows a Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the law governing Cobre Panama’s operating license.

The giant Cobre Panama mine has been at the center of widespread protests that erupted over a decision to approve a new multidecade operating contract in October. President Laurentino Cortizo initiated plans to shutter the mine in November.

First Quantum is also requesting permission from Panama’s labour ministry to lay off more than 4,000 of the 7,000 employees at the site “for justified economic reasons.” Some will remain on site to “maintain the safety of the facilities and avoid environmental losses or damages within the mining area,” the company said.

Shares of the Vancouver-based firm fell as much as 2.1 per cent in Toronto, touching its lowest intraday price since June 2020.