Costa Rican Constitutional Court Upholds Cancellation of Crucitas Gold Mining Permit

Northern Union for Life UNOVIDA – Coalition Against Mining in the Northern Zone

Injunction Triumphs – Constitutional Court rules appeal filed by Vannessa Ventures subsidiary Industrias Infinito S.A. “groundless”

More than thirty years ago, a professor of science undertook a fight to the finish against the companies that wanted to build open pit mines in the Costa Rican mountains; it was also in the Eighties, along with most of the Sancarleño people, that he managed to defeat to the Eurospec company that wanted to open an open pit sulphur mine in what today it is the second main water source of Costa Rica, the Juan Castro Blanco National Water Park.

More than twenty years ago, Prof. Carlos Murillo, along with Guillermo Herrera and Francisco Vargas, initiated the struggle against Placer Dome, who wanted to mine gold, silver and other metals in the vicinity of the majestic San Juan River. By means of an injunction before the Constitutional Court filed by Prof. Carlos Murillo and Lic. Diana Murillo, ruling number 13414 of November 26, 2004, annulled the mining permit that had been granted to the current holder of the concession, transnational mining company Vannessa Ventures through its subsidiary Industrias Infinito S.A., by the then-President of Costa Rica Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Minister of Atmosphere and Energy Elizabeth Odio on December 17, 2001.

On April 12, 2005, the then-manager of the mining company, Jesus Carvajal, asked the Constitutional Court to reconsider, clarify, and add to, ruling 13414, alleging that the Court had not considered some overarching facts and alleging that this had caused an erroneous interpretation of the facts, for example, decrees that were in effect at the time that the mining concession was obtained, and for which the company has acquired rights. In the answer to this request, the Constitutional Court ruled that the appeal presented by the mining company is inadmissible, leaving it without legal arguments to continue with the project since it does not have an operating permit.

The conclusion of the Court is forceful: "... for the previously given reasons, it is completely against the principles that inform environmental law, in particluar, in dubio pro natura and the precautionary principle, as well as the environmental public interest, the interpretation of the appellant that he is exempt from the obligation of [completing] an environmental impact study previous to the granting of a concession for mineral exploitation. Also, the corresponding public hearing must be made according to the terms indicated in the sentence that is questioned here. Consequently, the appeal as formulated, for addition and clarification, is declared groundless."

Another injunction against the Technical Environmental Secretariat (SETENA), filed by Prof. Carlos Murillo on September 21, 2006, was also endorsed by the Constitutional Court. This subsequent injunction asks SETENA to annul all permits and proceedings approved for the mining company since Executive Decree Nº 30477 prohibited metal mining activity, since it stopped all projects then proceeding and therefore these permits are invalid. This injunction is in its final stage and SETENA has 30 days to comply.

Thus Vanessa Ventures or Industrias Infinito cannot undertake any mining activity because it does not have authorization.

The damages caused to the environment on the part of the mining company must be analyzed and evaluated scientifically; for this effect the Costa Rican state is analyzing the possibility of asking the mining company for multi-million dollar compensation for the environmental and social damages that it has caused under its own risk and responsibility.

Today that professor is our Vice-president, who honours us with his presence and his fighting spirit in benefit of our natural resources and the present and future generations. Thank you, Prof. Carlos Manuel Murillo Ulate, and thank you to all those who have been part of the fight for life.

For more information: (506) 461-9090/461-0096