Petition against Infinito Ltd. approaches 300,000 signatures

A petition asking Infinito Gold Ltd. to call off its $1 billion case against Costa Rica has received nearly 300,000 signatures, a Canadian organization said.

The petition campaign is sponsored by the United Steelworkers, MiningWatch Canada, Blue Planet Project, Common Frontiers and The Council of Canadians.

Infinito is expected to present the case soon the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank organization.

The case involves the annulment of the Las Crucitas open pit gold mine project by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo. The petition sponsors also expressed their unhappiness with the trade treaties negotiated by the government of Canada. Said the sponsors in a release:

“For the last 20 years, Canada has pursued and negotiated trade and investment agreements that promote and protect the rights of investors at the expense of human rights, labour rights, and environmental standards. The conduct of Canadian mining companies such as Infinito Gold is one of the results of that agenda. Canada must revise or renegotiate its existing trade and investment agreements and pursue an investment agenda based on respect for human, community, labour, and environmental rights.”

Infinito, which is based in Calgary, is bringing the case under the Canadian-Costa Rican trade treaty, which guarantees fair treatment of foreign corporations.

The petition organizers said that these treaties provide an unjust framework that allows companies to bypass domestic court and government decisions when they don’t suit their interests.

The release said of Infinito “your threatened suit against Costa Rica is quickly becoming a poster child for the problems with the international investment framework created by free trade agreements and foreign investor protection agreements to prioritize corporate profits over the well-being of communities, workers, and the environment.”

The release also suggested that an alleged donation from Ronald Mannix, Infinito’s largest shareholder, to the Arias Foundation in 2008 could have had an impact on support by former President Oscar Arias on the project and will press for Canadian authorities to divulge all of the information available in this regard. The release called for the continued legal prosecution against members of the Arias administration.

The La Crucitas project received a concession long before Arias won the presidency. But he did declare the project to be in the national interest that allowed the firm to begin cutting trees for the mine pit.

The campaign says on its Web site that Infinito slapped Costa Rica with a $1 billion lawsuit because the nation decided to protect its rain forests rather than host an open-pit gold mine. The Web site shows a lake and a dense jungle unlike the forest around the proposed mine site in Cutris de San Carlos.

The arbitration case will be decided by a panel of three persons. One picked by each side and the third selected by the first two.

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