Gold mine developers lose their high court appeal

The Sala Primeria of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, acting as an appeals court, has upheld a lower court decision that cancels a concession to construct an open pit gold mine.

The decision in the case became known today via a release from the Poder Judicial.

This is the highly controversial case involving Industrias Infinito S.A, the local subsidiary of Infinito Gold of Calgary, Canada. The company sought to mine up to a million ounces of gold at the site in northern Costa Rica.

The decision likely will be appeals to the Sala IV constitutional court which has upheld the company’s concession in a previous case. The company has vowed to carry its case to international arbitration if it cannot mine in Costa Rica.

Specifically, the court overturned three environmental approvals and a decree signed by former president Óscar Arias Sánchez that said the mine was of public interest and for the national
convenience. The decree gave the company special rights to sidestep some environmental rules, such as cutting protected trees on the mine site.

The court decision also ordered the public prosecutor’s office to investigate Arias and a host of others involved in the case on behalf of the mining company. It also ordered the Colegio de Abogados to investigate the role of a lawyer in the case.

The decision was basically the same as that emitted by the lower court, the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo.

This is the long-awaited decision that was leaked to mining company officials by a replacement magistrate. When that fact became public, a Sala Primera magistrate resigned and a criminal investigation was launched.

The mine has been continually opposed by environmental activists who want to protect the trees, the scarlet macaws that live in them and the local topography. They also expressed concern about the use of cyanide to leach gold from crushed rock because of the proximity of the Río San Juan just three kilometers to the north.

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