Sala IV declines to rule on Infinito’s legal situation

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected an appeal by Industrias Infinito S.A. to mediate the differences among decisions by the court itself, the Sala I and the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo.

The Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo annulled the company’s concession to develop an open pit gold mine in northern San José after the Sala IV had validated the concession. The Sala I upheld the Tribunal’s decision even though it conflicted with that of the Sala IV.

The constitutional court appears to have ducked considering the issues of the case. A summary from the Poder Judicial said that the case was rejected because it did not have the basic requirements of admissibility as contained in the Law.

Infinito is a subsidiary of Infinito Gold Ltd. of Canada. The firm is expected to begin international arbitration now that it has exhausted its remedies in Costa Rica. The mine site is known as Crucitas.

Last April 4 the company president, John Morgan, issued a statement noting that the company has served notice that it considers Costa Rica to be in breach of the trade treaty because a series of conflicting court rulings ended with the annulment of the concession to mine gold. The six-month period stipulated for conciliation in a trade treaty between Canada and Costa Rica expired earlier this month

The case was the subject of lengthy protests by students and environmental activists. The company was accused of cutting protected trees to create a spot for its pit mine, but the concession predates the decision to protect the trees.

Morgan’s statement outlined the conflicting views of Costa Rica politicians and the courts. For example, then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez issued a decree saying that the open pit gold mining project was in the national interest. And the Sala IV constitutional court ruled in April 2010 that all the objections raised against the company were without merit.

But the following November, a lower court, the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo, voted to annul the concession, and this was upheld by the Sala I of the same Corte Suprema de Justicia.

When it goes to the World Court’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the company has told government officials that it will seek slightly more than $1 billion.

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