The Sala IV constitutional court has upheld a law that prohibited all but small-scale gold mining in the country. The measure specifically prohibited open pit mining.
The Poder Judicial released a summary of the Tuesday decision.
The case is brought by the Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Minera, which said that the prohibition was unconstitutional because it prevents the renewal of concessions granted by previous governments.
Two magistrates said that the association did not have standing to bring the case. Five magistrates said they could see no constitutional flaw.
They said that lawmakers have the right to pass such a restriction and that the prohibition does not apply only to a Canadian corporation but to any entity regardless of country of origin, said the summary. In addition, the prohibition was justified to protect the environment.
The reference was to Industrias Infinito S.A, which had a concession to operate an open-pit mine near the country’s northern border. The Las Crucitas property is estimated to contain 12 million ounces of gold. That is about $1.9 billion. Environmentalists oppose the mine because of the extraction method that might cause heavy metals to seep into the nearby Río San Juan.
Infinito is a subsidiary of a Canadian mining firm. The company has support from former president Óscar Arias Sánchez, but the current administration opposes mining, except for small-scale, underground hard rock activities.
The Canadian firm is believed to be preparing an international arbitration case against Costa Rica for terminating its concession.