San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Crucitas

Costa Rica court orders new trial over alleged Crucitas mine impropriety 

Former Environment Minister Roberto Dobles is headed back to court after a San José appeals court threw out a previous ruling against him this year for his involvement in the controversial Infinito Gold mining project.

Dobles has been in and out of court this year over alleged improprieties around a concession to the British Columbia-based mining company Infinito Gold and another that allegedly favored his uncle during his time as environment minister in the Oscar Arias administration (2006-2010).

Dobles signed a decree in October 2008 that declared the concession to extract 1 million grams of gold in Crucitas, a northern Alajuela canton of San Carlos, “of public interest.” The project — which was estimated at the time to be worth some $2 billion — was riddled with corruption allegations and eventually the concession was revoked.

He was given a three-year suspended sentence in January for breach of public duty for granting the open-pit gold mining concession. Dobles was not required to serve any prison time as part of the suspended sentence.

The appeals court annulled that suspended sentence and called for a new trial with a new panel of judges, according to a statement from the court Wednesday.

The Infinito Gold saga isn’t over for Dobles or for the Costa Rican government. Infinito Gold declared bankruptcy in July but has not dropped its arbitration case against the government of Costa Rica at the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The company is seeking $94 million in lost investments after the concession was annulled.

Dobles acquitted of graft in separate case

In November a court acquitted Dobles of graft charges in a separate mining scandal. In 2006 the Environment and Energy Ministry, under Dobles, granted mining company Agricultura Mecanizada Chapernal a five-year permit to extract sand, stone and gravel from the bed of the Aranjuez River in Puntarenas province.

Dobles’ uncle is on the board of directors of one of the company’s parent corporations. But the court ruled that the connection was insufficient to warrant a graft sentence.

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