Costa Rica upholds ban on open-pit mining

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Tribunal, a panel of the country’s highest court, on Feb. 6 unanimously rejected a case brought by the country’s Mining and Industry Association challenging the 2010 ban on open-pit mining. The Association argued that the ban on license renewal for existing open-pit mines is unconstitutional and applied in a discriminatory manner. The judges found that the prohibition on renewals violates no constitutional rights, and applies to all firms—not only foregn ones, as the Association argued. (OCMAL, Feb. 6)

Two Canadian-owned projects, at Bellavista and Crucitas, have galvanized environmentalist opposition. Cerro Crucitas lies within the Agua y Paz Biosphere Reserve, in the strategic San Juan Basin of Alajuela province, near the Nicaraguan border. (See map) Plans by Infinito Gold, formerly by Vannessa Ventures of Alberta, to build an open-pit mine there have been held up by concerns it would contaminate the Río San Juan with cyanide and heavy metals. The company was served an injunction by Costa Rica’s Supreme Court in October 2008 for illegally cutting forest down in preparation for the project before its approval. (Earthworks)

Toronto-based Glencairn Gold Corporation, now Central Sun Mining, began operating an open-pit mine at the Bellavista site near Miramar in Puntarenas province in 2003 in spite of concerns by locals and the then-pending ban. In July 2007, earth movements caused by geological instability or rainfall cracked the mine’s leach pad liner, in all probability leaking cyanide and contaminating the groundwater near the community of Miramar. The Canadian company suspended its operations only after the accident, even while admitting it had noticed earth movements in May. (EarthworksResponsible Gold)

  1. Mineral company sues Costa Rica

    Industrias Infinito SA, Costa Rican subsidiary of Canada-based Infinito Gold, has announced that it will sue Costa Rica before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Industrias Infinito alleges the government violated the Costa Rica-Canada Bilateral Investment Treaty when it annulled the concession, costing the company $92 million in equipment, environmental impact studies, personnel salaries and other expenses during the initial phase of the project. Infinito Gold is demanding the government of Costa Rica pay back $1 billion for lost profits. (Tico Times, Nov. 22) 

    A petition demanding that Infinito drop the case is online at