If you thought that the Canadian gold mining firm Industrias Infinitas had shot its last legal arrow from its quiver, you are dead wrong. The litigious mining company that spent years in Costa Rican courts is threatening to resort to international mediation.
Industrias spokesperson Yokebec Soto has announced the demand from the Costa Rican government for nearly $1.1 billion in damages for alleged violation of three articles in its original agreement sign with the Arias Administration.
The Industrias Infinitas mine at La Crucitas was controversial from the start. In 2008, then-President Oscar Arias declared the open pit gold mine “in the public interest,” greasing the rails for the project to go through.
Environmentalists opposing the the project because of the dangerous chemicals necessary to separate the gold from stone, fearing it would leach into the water table, filed an amparo appeal with the Constitutional Court (Sala IV) in 2010.
Sala IV ruled that the mine presented no environmental risk, much to the displeasure of environmentalists. It appeared that the firm was home free, but later in 2010 an appeals court ruled that irregularities had been discovered in the company’s permits.
In addition, the court ruled that the company had far exceeded its permit to cut trees in the development of its concession. The cancellation of all permits was upheld in late 2011.
The company immediately appealed the verdict to Sala IV in November, 2011, but the court has not chosen to take the matter up so far. The situation has been complicated by the unexpected death of Sala IV member Judge Luis Paulino Mora and the retirement of its president, Judge Ana Virginia Calzada.
Meanwhile, the company was fined millions for environmental damage from alleged wanton cutting of the protected yellow almond trees on the site.
The case to be argued in front of the World Bank-recognized investment arbitration center in Washington D. C. a billion dollars for the gold the company was unable to extract from the ground plus $92 million for technical and environmental studies (entailing drilling 291 holes in the ground), plus the purchase of machinery.
After President Laura Chinchilla took office, she signed a decree forbidding open pit mining in the country. It came too late to apply to the Canadian firm, however.