Even as the Poder Judicial was announcing a decision in the Crucitas open pit gold mine case,prosecutors confirmed they were questioning 10 persons, including former president Óscar Aria Sánchez, who were named as suspects in approving the project contrary to the law.
The Sala Primera, in its decision, specifically called for an investigation into Arias, former environmental minister Roberto Dobles Mora, and seven other current and former public officials. The decision upheld a similar order from a lower court.
The Poder Judicial said that 10 of the individuals had been questioned by prosecutors. At issue is the awarding of an environmental approval for the extraction of gold by the firm Industrias Infinito S.A.
The case was in the hands of anti-corruption prosecutors. Some of those being questioned work or worked for the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental, a division of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones that Dobles used to head.
Most, including Arias, had been named before. He was specifically mentioned earlier because he and Dobles signed a decree that said the gold mining project was in the public interest.
Infinito and its parent, Infinito Gold of Calgary, Canada, issued a short statement saying executives were considering their legal options.
A.M. Costa Rica reported early Wednesday afternoon that the Sala Primera the Corte Suprema de Justicia, acting as an appeals court, has upheld the lower court decision that cancels the concession to construct the open pit gold mine.
The decision in the case became known Wednesday via a release from the Poder Judicial, and it appeared that magistrates had voted that morning.
This is the highly controversial case involving the company that seeks to mine up to a million ounces of gold at the site in northern Costa Rica.
The decision likely will be appealed 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 Arias 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 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.