Costa Rica annuls gold mine concession
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The Costa Rican Supreme Court, on Nov. 30 2011, affirmed a lower court’s annulment of an environmental permit for the Canadian gold mining company Infinito Gold for a gigantic open pit mine known as La Crucitas. The mine location is only three kilometers from the San Juan River which marks the border with Nicaragua. Environmentalists in both countries opposed the mine. The Canadian company has threatened to seek US$127 million under international arbitration for lost investment in a mine where it expected to extract a million ounces of gold.

The Costa Rican Public Prosecutor’s office is considering possible criminal charges against former President Oscar Arias, former Minister of the Environment Roberto Dobles, and six former government officials. In 2008, then President Arias issued a decree bypassing Costa Rica’s strict environmental laws by declaring the mine “in the public interest” in spite of it being located in a protected area inhabited by endangered species. An additional 10 officials of the Environmental Ministry are under investigation for possible irregularities in issuing the environmental permit. Arias posted on his Facebook page, “This is a subject that the Office of the Public Prosecutor has been investigating for a long time. If I can help clarify his investigation, I will be happy to do so.”

 

Costa Ricans were reported to be celebrating the Supreme Court decision “in the workplaces, streets, but mostly in the social media.” Alvaro Sargot Rodriguez, one of the environmental lawyers who challenged the concession, laughed at Infinito Gold’s threat to seek international arbitration saying, “Apparently the person who spoke doesn’t know the Costa Rican judicial route is already at an end. He said the lawyers involved in the case would collaborate with the government if the company seeks international arbitration. He said, “We’ll go for the jugular and seek compensation for the environmental damage they did at La Crucitas.” (La Prensa, Nov. 30; El Nuevo Diario, Dec. 1; Radio La Primerisima, Dec. 1)