Costa Rica’s Supreme Court sends mining decision back to Executive and Legislature

Costa Rica’s Supreme Court ruled last week that “environmental policies” are the province of the Executive and Legislative branches, not the judicial, in a 343 page judgment on whether to rescind a concession to the Canadian gold mining company, Infinito Gold, Ltd. for the Crucitas mine. The Court said that the Executive branch has the right to rescind or change the concession “in the public interest” and that the two branches “have the final word.” The Supreme Court wrote its decision as part of a dismissal of a suit brought by environmentalists against the mining concession.

The Crucitas mine of Industrias Infinito, a Costa Rican subsidiary of Infinito Gold, has been met with a storm of opposition by environmentalists in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua who fear that locating the gold mine just three kilometers from the San Juan River, is a recipe for environmental disaster. The southern bank of the San Juan River forms the border between the two countries. Ornithologists spoke up last week saying that the mine would threaten some of the 70 species of birds that populate the region including Nicaragua’s national bird, the Guardabarranco [Mot Mot or Momotus momota], which lives only in the territory from Mexico to Costa Rica along the Pacific. The endangered Lapa Verde [Great Green Macaw or Ara ambiguous] also lives in the area. Environmentalists see the mine as a threat to nature preserves along the river.

Juan Carlos Hernandez, representing Industrias Infinito, expressed confidence that the government will not rescind the concession which he said the company has spent 15 years preparing to exploit and from which it expects to make US$80 million. The company could sue Costa Rica for what it expects to make from the mine under neoliberal trade rules if the concession is rescinded. Hernandez denied that the mine will cause any environmental damage. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and her government are studying the Supreme Court decision and were expected to make an official statement, but none has yet been released. (Radio La Primerisima, July 23, El Nuevo Diario, July 25)

Nicaragua News Service July 27 2010.