February 11th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Canadian mining firm, Infinito Gold, announced yesterday that it has filed a request for arbitration with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an agency of the World Bank, in which it seeks millions of dollars in compensation from Costa Rica.
The company said it is seeking some $94 million plus interest from Costa Rica over a moratorium on open-pit mining put the brakes on development of its open-pit “Las Crucitas” mine in 2010.
In its request, the company is seeking to be compensated for expenditures made beginning in 1993 to develop and build a gold mine at Crucitas. According to the company, approximately US$94 million has been spent on the Crucitas project.
The company said that over US$5 million of those funds were directed to “educational and training programs, school improvements, extending power lines to the town of Crucitas and upgrading an important local road that was virtually impassable in the wet season.”
The company had planned to extract 800,000 ounces of gold from a 261-hectare open-pit mine in San Carlos. Environmentalists strongly opposed the plan, which they said would have destroyed 190 hectares of forest.
The company had issued an ultimatum to Costa Rica on April 4th, 2013 stating the country had six months to allow the company to resume work at its Crucitas mine or face a more than $1 billion lawsuit, based on costs and lost profits.
Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla responded to the threat immediately at the time, saying the “case was closed.”
The company seemed to back down from that stance in yesterday’s statement, however, stating “contrary to some media reports, [the company’s] objective in pursuing its legal remedies is to recoup the costs that have been spent, plus interest, in developing the project over the past 20 years, as opposed to the profits it reasonably expected to earn had it been allowed to fully develop the project.”
Last year, The Public Ministry opened an investigation to determine if a $200,000 donation received by former president, Oscar Arias’ Arias Foundation in 2008 days before the open-pit mine was declared of “national interest” was connected to Infinito Gold.
Several Canadian organizations also demanded last year that the company cease its threats against Costa Rica.
“Infinito Gold has tried to portray itself as the victim of a capricious court system. In reality, the Calgary-based company has tried to strong-arm Costa Rica’s judiciary into overturning two Supreme Court rulings (2010 and 2011) that upheld the country’s ban on open-pit mining. The courts told the Canadian company it could not develop the Crucitas mine, and told Infinito to pack up and go,” MiningWatch Canada told Inside Costa Rica in a statement last year.
For its part, Infinito says that between 1993 and 2010, the country granted it all the necessary permits and approvals to proceed with the construction and development of the gold mine.
“These included an exploration permit giving Industrias Infinito the exclusive right to conduct exploration activities in the project area, an exploitation concession giving Industrias Infinito the exclusive right to extract, process and sell minerals from the project area, an approved environmental impact assessment, an executive decree declaring the project to be in the public interest and of national convenience, and a 2010 decision from the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica that the resolutions and permits authorizing the project were constitutional and lawful,” the company said in a press release issued yesterday.
“Beginning in 2011, however, as a result of decisions of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica contradicting its earlier decisions as well as measures adopted by the Costa Rican executive and legislative authorities, the Crucitas project was cancelled without compensation and Industrias Infinito was prevented from taking any further steps to develop the project,” the statement added.