Costa Rica's ongoing environmental battle against mining industry. (Photo: Bellavista, Costa Rica open-pit mine)
The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Gold mining Infinito Industries is ready to fight after their defeat in court.

What began as an environmental dispute with an open pit gold mining operation, has led to a full ban on open-pit metal mining in Costa Rica, and a $1 billion law suit against Costa Rica.

Infinito Gold was seeking concession for an open pit mine in Las Crucitas, in northern Costa Rica. The operation is near the San Juan River, which is the country’s northern border with Nicaragua.

Biologists argued that the Las Crucitas mine poses a threat to Costa Rica’s most important resource, its biodiversity. Although mining supporters say their operations has evolved to be eco-friendly, environmentalists say there is no such thing as eco-friendly open pit mining.

Estimates say that there is at least 1.2 million ounces of gold and possibly much more at the Las Crucitas mine but environmentalists argue the site is home to a unique bio diverse environment that includes wildlife such as endangered macaws.

Although Infinito Industries spokeswoman Yokebec Soto recently said “This country (Costa Rica) is a threat to foreign investment,” adding that the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report ranked Costa Rica as one of the worst places to invest in Latin America because of excessive bureaucracy and lack of legal clarity, but the reality is this dispute cuts to the core of this country’s pride as a champion of the environment.

Open pit mining is one of the most environmentally dangerous operation in the world, is it any surprise Infinito Gold met with fierce opposition both at the Governmental level as well NGO level?

And while Infinto Gold may blame Costa Rican bureaucracy, it is really about environmental impact as Alvaro Sagot, one of the environmental lawyers representing the case, said “Environmental feasibility can no longer be granted with such flippancy.”

After the decision against their interests issued on June 19 by the Constitutional Court, the mining company Infinito Industries, a subsidiary of the Canadian gold mining company Infinito Gold- informed that they will seek economic compensation by way of international arbitration. In addition, they will release a revealing document with information about the case.

Infinito Gold spokeswoman Yokebec Soto said that the decision of the Constitutional Court does not affect the rest of the law suits the company has made against Costa Rica, in spite of the fact that one of the requirements from the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is not to have pending proceedings in the country.

“We will continue with the law suit of $1 billion, the largest against the Costa Rican government today and I think in the history of the country,” said Soto.
She also made clear that the resolution of the Constitutional Court “does not mean that the company will leave the country”. Infinito Industries will only leave Costa Rica “once all its investment and money lost during delayed legal processes against their interests in gold mining is paid”.

On the other hand, Deputy Claudio Monge, believes that arbitration is “extremely dangerous to Costa Rica” and recalled that once the Vice President Alfio Piva told the press that “the company could sue us for an amount close to $ 1 billion.”

From his viewpoint, international arbitration is a reality “thanks to the provisions of instruments such as the Free Trade Agreement with the United States (NAFTA) and Canada.”

In February Calzada explained that the time it took the Court to resolve the action was due to the “detailed and comprehensive study of the issue, as well as to a serious consideration on how to act within the scope of the powers and legal nature of the Court “.

In 2010 the Constitutional Court annulled the permission given to Infinito Industries to develop a mining project in Las Crucitas, San Carlos. As a result, in November of 2011 the mining company presented a legal claim against the Court. Consequently, on June 19th the Constitutional Court issued a sentence that unanimously agreed to reject the unconstitutional action of the mining company.

Yokebec Soto complained that throughout the entire process of Industrias Infinito, the authorities of Costa Rica have kept “throwing the ball to one another” to the point that “the company had no choice but to turn to international bodies, with the right that the Investment Treaty between Costa Rica and Canada grants us.”

For the spokeswoman, the history of the project “has had many twists and turns”, so it was decided to arrange all the facts in “one document that will be presented before the ICSID and which we will share with the press and public. There is nothing to hide, but there are many things people never knew. ”
Regarding complaints that the company has filed against environmentalists such as the biologist Jorge Lobo, the law professor Nicholas Boeglin, and deputy Claudio Monge (the first two have been rejected by the courts), Soto said they will continue, and stated that “there is a lot of hypocrisy in all these cases.”

Tracy Vargas

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose Costa Rica