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Infinito Gold vs. Costa Rica: Gold mining

Photo: jaguardelplatanar / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
  • Amount demanded: US$94 million
  • Outcome: Investor lost
  • Treaty invoked: Canada - Costa Rica BIT
  • Sector: mining
  • Issue: environment

by Public Citizen (updated by

In February 2014 Infinito Gold, a Canadian mining firm, filed a $94 million claim against Costa Rica under the Costa Rica-Canada BIT for a Costa Rican court decision to revoke Infinito’s Las Crucitas open-pit gold mining concession on environmental grounds. The mining license was secured in 2008 from then-President Oscar Arias and his environment minister. The Costa Rican Administrative Appeals Court later ordered a criminal investigation of Arias for having signed off on the project while environmental studies were still incomplete. The concession raised significant environmental concerns, including deforestation of 153 acres of pristine tropical rainforest. It also posed a significant health concern related to the leaching of chemicals used in the mining process that could contaminate drinking water near the San Juan River system.

A Costa Rican court revoked the concession in 2010 on the basis of environmental damage caused by the project. Polls indicated that more than 75 per cent of the Costa Rican population opposed the proposed mine, due in part to environmental concerns. Several weeks before the court ruling revoking Infinito’s concession, the Costa Rican legislature voted unanimously to ban new open-pit metal mines. Infinito appealed to Costa Rica’s Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling against the firm in 2011. In its investor-state claim, Infinito asked a three-person tribunal to second-guess the rulings of Costa Rica’s courts and rule that Costa Rica’s prohibitions on new open-pit mining permits are an “unlawful expropriation” of Infinito’s investment and a violation of the firm’s BIT-protected right to “fair and equitable treatment.” “As a result of the new ban on open-pit mining, Industrias Infinito cannot apply for any new mining rights over the project area,” the firm noted in its brief.

In June 2021, the Costa Rican government announced that the tribunal ruled that the country did not have to compensate the investor following the cancellation of a mining project.

Last update: July 2021

 source: ISDS Corporate Attacks