Calgary mining company threatens FIPA challenge against Costa Rica by October


June 22, 2013

By Brent Patterson

The Tico Times reports, “Canadian mining company Infinito Gold on (June 20) threatened Costa Rica with a billion-dollar lawsuit after the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, rejected a company appeal to strike down an earlier court’s annulment of a mining concession for Las Crucitas, a planned open-pit gold mine in the northern region (near the border with Nicaragua). …Infinito Gold’s spokeswoman in Costa Rica, Yoquebec Soto, said the company would present documents related to the concession that they would use to file a complaint before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes…”

“(The company says it) will request $1.92 billion in compensation for alleged breach of the Costa Rica-Canada Bilateral Investment Treaty. The company said it has already invested $92 million in the project, and it claims to have lost $1 billion in potential profit.”

In 2006, then Costa Rican president Óscar Arias signed a decree saying the mine was in Costa Rica’s public interest. (The courts have now ordered an investigation into an alleged payment made to the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress by Infinito’s main Canadian financial backer just days prior to the signing of the decree.) AIDA reports, “In November 2010, the Highest Administrative Tribunal of Costa Rica cancelled the concession granted to Infinito.” The Tico Times notes, “The Supreme Court’s Civil and Administrative Law Branch (Sala I) annulled the mining concession in November 2011.” In April 2013, Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla said the Crucitas case is closed.

The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense has commented, “Operation and construction of the mine threatened to contaminate the San Juan River, a beautiful, healthy river that winds along Nicaraguan border and is surrounded by immense biodiversity. The pristine condition of the San Juan river is critical to the welfare of 32 local communities dependent on income from tourism and sport fishing.”

In mid-April, reported, “Seven Canadian organizations (including the Council of Canadians and the Blue Planet Project) sent a strongly worded letter to CEO John Morgan of Canadian mining company Infinito Gold, demanding that the company ‘end its decade-long harassment of the people and the government of Costa Rica’, and that it withdraw its April 4 threat to sue the small Central American country for US$1 billion if it is not allowed to build its Crucitas open-pit gold mine.” At that time, the company threatened a six-month deadline to settle the dispute, meaning it could launch its FIPA challenge before October.

In early-May, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew wrote, “While the Conservatives continue to sign bilateral investment treaties (BITs, or FIPAs in Canada’s case) that give corporations the ‘right’ to challenge or block policies they don’t like, Latin American countries are working together to change the system entirely. …Canadian transnational mining companies have played no small role in this assault on Latin American countries. Calgary-based Infinito Gold recently threatened (again) to sue Cost Rica for $1 billion under a 1999 FIPA with Canada because of a ban on open-pit mining in the country.”

And in her Guardian UK op-ed, Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan wrote, “A battle is being played out in neighbouring Costa Rica where Calgary-based Infinito Gold is threatening to sue for $1bn if two supreme court rulings affirming the country’s ban on opencast mining are not overturned. …The example of Canadian mining underscores the urgent need for the (United Nations) Human Rights Council to defend the primacy of human rights.”