Administrative Tribunal Sides With Communities of Northern Costa Rica, Annuls Infinito Gold's Mining Concession

On Wednesday, November 24th, 2010, the Contentious Administrative Tribunal (TCA by its initials in Spanish) sided with the demand of organizations that form part of the Opposition Front to mining in the north of Costa Rica when it ordered the annulment of the concession for gold extraction granted to the transnational company Infinito Gold in the district of Crucitas de Cutris in San Carlos province, along the border of Costa Rica with Nicaragua.

The Tribunal also ordered Infinito Industries to pay compensation to the country for environmental damages and recommended that the Public Ministry initiate legal action against ex-President Óscar Arias Sánchez together with officials from the Office of Geology and Mines and the National Technical Secretary of the Environment that were involved with the declaration of the Crucitas mine as being in the public interest.

The Tribunal's sentence is the culmination of a struggle that communities in the north of Costa Rica have sustained for over seventeen years. Numerous other individuals and organizations at the national level have also supported the communities' historic lawsuit and their demand that Infinito Industries leave Crucitas.

The lawsuit was filed by the Northern Union for Life (UNOVIDA by its initials in Spanish, for Unión Norte por la Vida), a member organization of the northern Opposition Front, and the Association for the Preservation of Wild Flora and Fauna (APREFLOFAS by its initials in Spanish, for Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre). Lawyers Alvaro Sagot, Edgardo Araya from UNOVIDA, and Bernal Gamboa from APREFLOFAS, fought the case on behalf of these organizations.

Pedro Pablo Aguirre, member of the Northern Coordinating Committee “Land and Liberty” that represents peasant farmers, environmentalists, the Environmental Committee of Guatuso, rural water and sanitation associations, local cooperatives, Maleku indigenous organizations, and leaders from the northern part of the country, stated that they have won the battle, but the struggle continues. He added that the organizations that form part of the Coordinating Committee are celebrating the decision, which demonstrates that the communities of the north and their organizations have been right all along. 

Aguirre recalled that the project would never have been considered viable if it not for the unconditional support that ex-President Óscar Arias provided during his administration when he revoked the 2002 Decree emitted by then-President Abel Pacheco that prohibited gold mining, granted a new mining concession via a dubious administrative act, and declared the gold mining project to be in the public and national interest via an Executive Decree emitted on October 17th 2008.

It is also important to remember that the Constitutional Court had previously declared the mining concession belonging to Infinitas unconstitutional in its judgment of December 4th, 2004. The concession was originally granted toward the end of the administration of Miguel Angel Rodríguez in early 2002.

Jeffrey López from the Association of Popular Initiatives (DITSO by its initials in Spanish) and member of the Coordinating Committee “Land and Liberty” said that this is a triumph for the people of Costa Rica, which raises their hope and boosts their spirit of resistance. He added that ongoing grassroots organizing that is independent of political parties can help put the interests of the people over those of business and multinational capital, with its local associates and sell-outs.

López further recalled that while the Tribunal's sentence temporarily puts to rest one of the greatest social and environmental threats in the region and to the binational watershed of the San Juan River, the region still suffers from profound environmental, social, and cultural destruction as a product of citrus fruit plantation expansion on the Costa Rican side of the border and African palm and teak tree plantations on the Nicaraguan side. He indicated that environmental threats to the Caño Negro wetland, considered a wetland of international importance under the RAMSAR convention, is the greatest reflection of the process of destruction going on in the region, imposed against the will of local populations and against their traditional cultural practices and forms of production.

He further said that the binational watershed, the largest in Central America, faces threats from a series of megaprojects that work against the balance and maintenance of the ecosystems and systems that sustain it. These include the dredging of the San Juan River, which he says is just the tip of the iceberg of initiatives being funded with foreign and national capital to exploit the riches of the binational area, mentioning the Brito hydroelectric project in the San Juan River and the exploitation of the riches within the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, without leaving aside the eventual construction of an inter-oceanic canal, as just some of the most apparent threats.

López concluded saying that it is in the context of the threat of transnational capital, with its foreign and local associates, that we should understand the current dispute over the dredging of the San Juan River, a project being imposed from above by governments and whose price will be paid by the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan people.

For more information contact:
Jeffery López (506) 8878-9009
Lino Rodríguez (506) 2470-1268