Costa Rican Court Strikes Down Las Crucitas Gold Mine Project

Nov 24, 2010, 5:21 PM |

In a monumental ruling that ends a years-long battle over the right to build a massive gold mine along the Nicaraguan border, a Costa Rican court has annulled the mining concession previously granted to Industrias Infinito, S.A., and ordered the company to pay environmental damages.

Ronald Reyes | Tico Times

Actress Rocío Carranza attends a protest of Crucitas mining project outside Casa Presidencial on Saturday.

A battle, often bitter, that for years pitted environmentalists and residents along Costa Rican's northern border with Nicaragua, against a Canadian owned and Costa Rican operated gold mining operation, recorded a pivotal moment today when a Costa Rican court annulled a government mining concession granted to Industrias Infinito, S.A., a Costa Rican-owned company.

The gold mine at Las Crucitas – named after the nearby town of the same title – has long been a thorny issue for a country that prides itself on its record of environmental protection. Environmentalists say the massive gold mining project – already well underway – would destroy hundreds of trees, including the nationally protected Almond tree, a habitat for the endangered Green Macaw. The project could also potentially pollute the region's groundwater supply.

"Today is one of the happiest days of my professional life," Carlos Coverdale, of the environmental group Preserve Planet, said in a statement.

"We've clearly demonstrated that the Crucitas Project is not viable. The whole country should be celebrating," he said.

Indeed, after the verdict was made public at about 5 p.m. local time, cars honking their horns could be heard throughout downtown San José, the capital. A representative for the company was attacked by angry protesters as he left the courtroom.

Lawyers representing the company are expected to appeal the ruling. “I believe there is an appeal process, (but) there are other options available to us," Industrias Infito's president, John Morgan, said in September. Morgan said the company has not ruled out seeking international arbitration, a move that in the past has had limited success for other companies in Costa Rica.