San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Infinito Gold to sue Costa Rica in World Bank court for $1 billion

Canadian gold-mining company Infinito Gold Ltd. announced its intentions to go forward with a $1 billion lawsuit against Costa Rica over the retracted Las Crucitas open-pit gold mining concession in northern Costa Rica, in a statement released on Friday.

The mining company said it plans to go ahead with its threat to take the case to the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) after a six-month mediation expired Friday.

Costa Rica and the Canadian mining company have been ensnarled in a protracted legal battle over the canceled Las Crucitas project in Cutris de San Carlos, Alajuela, since environmentalists and locals decried the loss of virgin forest and health concerns over leeching chemicals contaminating drinking water.

Industrias Infinito, S.A., a Costa Rican company owned exclusively by Infinito Gold Ltd, alleges the government violated the Costa Rica-Canada Bilateral Investment Treaty, costing it $92 million in equipment, environmental impact studies, personnel salaries and other costs during the initial phase of the project, and another $1 billion in lost profits.

The British Columbia-based company claims that the suit is the largest Costa Rica has ever faced. 

Infinito has been rattling its saber over a potential ICSID arbitration after the company lost its appeal in Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, known as the Sala IV, in November 2010. In April, the company announced that it would take its case to ICSID if the two were unable to resolve the dispute during the six-month window required under the investment treaty.  

The Supreme Court’s Civil and Administrative Law Branch annulled the mining concession in November 2011.

The concession would have allowed the extraction of 1 million grams of gold in the area, a business estimated at the time at some $2 billion. In 2008, the company obtained a mining license after then-President Óscar Arias (2006-2010) and his environment minister, Roberto Dobles, declared the project of “national interest.” 

“This sends a very bad message to foreign investors in North America,” said Yokebec Soto, a spokeswoman for Infinito Gold in Costa Rica.

Environment Minister René Castro gave a brief statement Friday afternoon, saying that Costa Rica’s treatment of Infinito Gold complied with national laws.

The minister did not take questions after making his remarks, citing the coming legal battle.

Soto said that the ICSID could take up to three years to issue a ruling. 

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