MAC: Mines and Communities

Costa Rica: Court annuls Crucitas mining concession, dismisses appeals

Published by MAC on 2011-12-05
Source: Tico Times, statement

A Costa Rica mining concession, once declared to be of "national public interest", has been annulled.

Canada's Infinito Gold has been told by the country's Supreme Court that it can't now open its Las Crucitas open-pit gold mine near the Nicaraguan border.

The project has been subject to a huge amount of citizenry opposition - and controversy - since first being proposed nearly twenty years ago.

See: Costa Rica: Judge Leaked Draft Decision on Crucitas gold mine

Whether the company will now fight back remains to be seen.

But, in the meantime, one of the environmental lawyers who secured the recent court victory is being sued by Infinito Gold for "defamation".



Sala I annuls Crucitas mining concession, dismisses appeals

By Clayton R. Norman

Tico Times

30 November 2011

The Supreme Court's Civil and Administrative Law Branch (Sala I) annulled Wednesday the mining concession issued to Industrias Infinito to operate an open-pit gold mine at Las Crucitas near the Nicaraguan border.

The court's ruling is the latest in a long-running battle between opponents of the mine and Industrias Infinto, which is a subsidiary of the Canadian company Infinito Gold. The company was awarded a mining concession by then-president Óscar Arias in 2006, but lawsuits by environmental groups kept the project hobbled through November of 2010 when the Sala I struck down the project. Industrias Infinito appealed that decision.

Wednesday's ruling, however, dismissed the mining company's appeals. The court also asked Costa Rica's public prosecutor to initiate proceedings to see if criminal investigations are warranted for individuals in the Costa Rican government involved in the mining saga, including former President Arias. The project was first proposed in 1993.

Additionally, the court annulled numerous environmental permits and declarations issued to Industrias Infinito by the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry between 2005 and 2008 including and executive decree, approved by Arias, declaring the project to be in the public interest in 2006.

On November 22, four environmental lawyers had presented a list of demands to the Sala I asking for action on many of the issues the court ruled on Wednesday.

Arias responded to the Sala I ruling Wednesday afternoon on his Facebook page.
"I reiterate that I am at the order of all Costa Ricans as I have always been my entire life," Arias wrote. "I don't know in depth the verdict from the Sala I on the Crucitas case. However, this is a theme that the public prosecutor's office has been looking into for a long time. If, eventually it is decided I can help clear up their investigation, I will, as always, be happy to do so."

In a statement, Industrias Infinito said: "Industrias Infinito learned through the press of the ruling issued today by the Supreme Court's Civil and Administrative Law Branch. (Industrias Infinito) will proceed accordingly to analyze the ruling ... The company will evaluate available legal options."

SALA I Upholds Tribunal Decision

Infinito Gold Press release

30 November 2011

Infinito Gold Ltd. (the "Company") announces that the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica ("SALA I") has rendered its decision and rejected the request for annulment ("Casación") of the sentence (the "TCA Ruling") imposed by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo ("TCA") on November 24, 2010, in respect of the Company's gold mining permits and the Costa Rican permitting procedures for the Crucitas gold project.

The TCA Ruling annulled the Exploitation Concession of the Company's Crucitas gold project and invalidated, among other things, the original approval of the environmental impact study received in December of 2005 during the Abel Pacheco presidency, the amended environmental impact study received in February of 2008 and the Presidential Decree declaring the project to be in the national interest received in October of 2008.

The decision by the SALA I appears to conflict with the decision reached by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica (SALA IV) in April of 2010 that confirmed the validity of IISA's Exploitation Concession and approvals.

The Company is reviewing the impact of the SALA I ruling with respect to the ruling of the SALA IV, its debt facilities and their related covenants and the impact this may have on the future presentation of its financial statements.

Lawyer in Crucitas fight goes to court for defamation charges

By Clayton R. Norman

Tico Times

29 November 2011

One of the environmental lawyers who has led the fight against gold mining at Las Crucitas near the Nicaraguan border appeared in court Monday to face accusations he defamed the mining company, Industrias Infinito.

"It was only a few things I said to a newspaper of national circulation," said Edgardo Araya after his appearance in the Justice Courts of Goicochea. "And they interpreted it as offensive."

Neither Araya nor lawyers for Crucitas would address what the alleged defamatory comments were.

Industrias Infinito is a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Infinito Gold, Inc. The company has been trying to extract gold from a site near Las Crucitas for more than a decade. Those plans were struck down by the Supreme Court's Civil and Administrative Law Branch (Sala I) in November of 2010. The company has appealed that decision.

Araya and other lawyers battling against the Crucitas mine, which was first proposed in 1993 and was declared to be in the public interest by former president Óscar Arias in 2006, petitioned the Sala I last week to dismiss any pending appeals by Infinito Gold. This came after allegations that Moisés Fachler, a substitute judge in the previous Crucitas trial allegedly leaked a draft of a ruling by the Sala I to representatives of Industrias Infinito last October.

After Monday's hearing Industrias Infinito's lawyer, Ciro Casas, declined to comment on the case. Araya's legal team would only say Industrias Infinito had offered to settle the matter, but the two sides could not agree on terms.

"It was a great opportunity to arrive at some type of agreement," Araya said. "However, the terms they wanted to work out were impossible for us... We'll take it to the judge."

Infinito Gold is seeking damages, according to Araya's advisers, of up to $1 million. Before the hearing Araya said he feels the mining company is waging a campaign of fear through legal intimidation in hopes of silencing critics like him.

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