MAC: Mines and Communities

Crucitas, Costa Rica: March Against Gold Mine Exploitation

Published by MAC on 2010-04-24
Source: Reuters, Tico Times

Despite widespread protests, and a previous order suspending operations, a Canadian mining company has persuaded Costa Rica's Supreme Court to permit an open-pit gold mine which, say protestors, has already destroyed virgin forest.


Costa Rica court rules to reopen gold mine project


16 April 2010

SAN JOSE - The Costa Rican Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a small Canadian mining company can proceed with its open-pit gold mine, striking down complaints from environmental groups that the project was destroying virgin forest.

The ruling reversed an October 2008 order from the high court to halt construction on the Crucitas mine near the border with Nicaragua and mine owner Infinito Gold Ltd claimed the ruling as a victory.

Environmentalists had complained that the miner was breaking the law by cutting down trees in forests that are home to such wildlife as the endangered great green macaw and other precious birds.

"After reviewing the official studies we did not find that this mining project will negatively affect the environment. So the project will go ahead," Vanlly Cantillo, a court spokeswoman said.

Crucitas will be Costa Rica's first major gold mine with a capacity to produce 85,000 ounces of gold annually. An investment of up to $66 million is required to start the mine with an indicated resource of 1.2 million ounces of gold, according to the company's website.

Infinito Gold's President John Morgan lauded the court's decision and said the company was committed to moving forward with the project. "Now we must show Costa Rica that Crucitas will be a model of sustainable mining," Morgan said in a statement.

With approximately half of its surface cloaked in lush forest, Costa Rica is a world famous eco-travel paradise.

President Oscar Arias reversed a moratorium on open pit mining after taking office and declared the Crucitas project of "national interest," angering environmentalists.

His government said in a statement on Friday it would stand by the court's decision to allow the mine to reopen.

Laura Chinchilla, the country's president-elect who will take office in May, is a protege of Arias and is expected to follow closely the policies of his government. (Reporting by Alex Leff; Editing by Richard Chang)

Costa Rica goldmine approval a blow to environmental groups

Alex Leff

Tico Times

16 April 2010

A high court ruling that supports an open-pit gold mine project near Costa Rica's northern border with Nicaragua has outraged environmentalists, who have warned that the Crucitas mine project could spell out disaster for the region.

"This is unbelievable," Luis Diego Marín, Meso-American coordinator for environmentalist group Preserve Planet, told The Tico Times. "The scientific and technical deficiencies of the documents that the company has presented in recent months are more than evident."

Marín and other environmentalists maintain that Canadian company Infito Gold Ltd.'s logging to create the mine would be illegal and that mining chemicals would pose a serious threat to the area's ecosystems. Infinito Gold representatives, and now Supreme Court magistrates, have refuted these allegations.

A majority of magistrates in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) ruled Friday afternoon that a complaint over the alleged environmental threat of the mine project was unfounded. "Now we must show Costa Rica that Crucitas will be a model of sustainable mining," John Morgan, Infinito Gold's president, said in a statement Friday.

Under normal circumstances, Costa Rican law prohibits forest land from being cleared for commercial use. In 2008, however, President Oscar Arias declared the mine was of national interest, giving Infinito the go-ahead to clear trees. Environmentalists argue Crucitas is a "goldmine" for another sort of treasure - great green macaws and other precious species that live in the region's forests.

Soon after the Sala IV announcement, Arias' office issued a statement showing the court his support. "Rulings are to be obeyed and respected," the president said.

Calling the Sala IV decision a "worrying," Marín said environmentalists will continue to fight the mine project and will seek support from the Nicaraguan government, which also has urged Costa Rica to reconsider the goldmine.

Constitutional Court in Costa Rica Confirms Validity of Grant of Crucitas Gold Project Permits


18 April 2010

CALGARY - Infinito Gold Ltd. (the "Company") announces that on Friday, April 16, 2010, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court in Costa Rica ("SALA IV") ruled that the challenges to the grant of permits allowing development of the Company's Crucitas gold project are without merit, ending the suspension of development activity at the project imposed by the SALA IV.

This ruling by the SALA IV, in Vote No 6922, disposes of all challenges raised by a number of citizens alleging that certain official approvals and permits received by the Company's wholly owned subsidiary in Costa Rica, Industrias Infinito SA, were not issued in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The Vote states, by a margin of five votes to two, that the legal challenges were without merit with one specific exception that was considered to have been cured by the date of the Vote. This supports the earlier ruling by the SALA IV, received in November 2009, stating that it was not contrary to the Constitution for the President and the Minister of Environment of Costa Rica to issue the Presidential Decree in October 2008 declaring the Crucitas project to be in the national interest.

President and CEO, John Morgan, stated: "The Company takes very seriously its environmental and social responsibilities in the development of this project, and has always believed that the many years spent developing its research, preparation, practices and management plan for environmental and social responsibilities would be viewed as world class and best practice. The very detailed review by Costa Rican Constitutional Court over a period of 16 months including a site visit and a public hearing by the Magistrates has vindicated that commitment by the Company."

Chairman, Steven Dean, stated: "Costa Rica has a world renowned reputation as an environmentally responsible country and the Company is committed to managing the project with principles consistent with that high standard. It is the Company's objective to make the Crucitas project a model for sustainable and responsible development of mining projects, not only in Central America, but the world."

The Vote received on Friday, April 16, 2010 is the basic or summary decision reached by the SALA IV. The complete, detailed decision will be made available by the SALA IV in the near future. Although the detailed decision will have to be reviewed carefully, the Company's legal advisors do not anticipate any further delay in the resumption of construction activities, or undue restraints on the Company's construction or operating procedures.

On Saturday April 17, 2010 the Company became aware that a group opposed to the project had filed an injunction, based on an earlier filing, with the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo and was awarded a period of three business days for the parties to present written arguments to the Tribunal. During this period no work can be done in the mining or tailings area at the site. The Company will file arguments with the Tribunal Contencioso to lift the injunction. Legal counsel in Costa Rica has advised that the filing has no merit for several reasons including the fact that the SALA IV has already ruled on the items that have been put forward to the Tribunal Contencioso. In Costa Rica there is a legal principle in effect called "Cosa Juzgada" that once the Supreme Court has ruled on a case that no lower courts will rule again on same matters. The Company anticipates that this will have no impact on development at the site.

The Company was well advanced with construction activity at the mine site when activity was suspended in October of 2008. Since that date, the Company has continued to receive components required for the processing plant such as screens, pumps, agitators and the main project electrical transformers. The mill pedestals are in place and the SAG and ball mill are ready to be mounted when construction recommences.

The Company will continue working with BNP Paribas, which has been providing structuring advice as lead arranger for the financing of the Crucitas project, with the objective of securing project financing as soon as possible.

Costa Ricans to March Against Gold Mine Exploitation

19 April 2010

Environment advocates have called for a march next Thursday in San José to reject the Constitutional Court ruling last Friday that gives the green light for exploitation of gold mines in northern Costa Rica.

Although the work on the project is temporarily on hold after environmentalists filed an action with theTribunal Contencioso Administrativo, effectively halting the Crucitas open pit mining project to at least Wednesday.

Luis Diego Marón of the Preserve Planet Association called the decision irresponsible and cautions that the mine will pollute waters, affect the yellow almond trees and the green lapa, a bird in danger of extinction.

With the exploitation of the opencast deposit in Las Crucitas located 3 miles from the border with Nicaragua, the management expects to extract 700 000 ounces of gold in ten years valued in about us$800 million dollars.

Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, on Friday expressed his pleasure for the court resolution and said the sentences have to be complied with.

However the President of the Costa Rican Federation for the Preservation of the Environment Heidy Murillo warned that the legal fight still remain.

Murillo announced a demonstration for April 22 in San Jose against the court's decision that favors the Infinito companies whith headquarters in Canada. Members of environmental organizations, political leaders and locals affected by irrational exploitation of their natural resources will join the march next Thursday.

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