Court shuts down Crucitas gold mine citing environmental harm

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San Carlos, Costa Rica
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Photo: San Juan River, on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Source: www.elnuevodiario.com.ni

For the first time in Costa Rica, a high court cancelled a large-scale mining concession because it violated national laws and posed environmental risks.

In November 2010, the Highest Administrative Tribunal of Costa Rica cancelled the concession granted to Infinito Industries to operate the Crucitas open-pit gold mine, basing its decision on the project's current and future environmental impacts as well as legal violations related to granting the concession. The court issued this ruling despite the fact that the mining project was favored by the former government administration. This decision was appealed by the company. However, in november 2011 the appeals court rejected the appeal and the Crucitas Project was canceled permanently.

The Crucitas gold mine posed a risk to the environment not only in Costa Rica but also across the border.  Operation and construction of the mine threatened to contaminate the San Juan River, a beautiful, healthy river that winds along Nicaraguan border and is surrounded by immense biodiversity. The pristine condition of the San Juan river is critical to the welfare of 32 local communities dependent on income from tourism and sport fishing.

Beginning in 2008, AIDA warned the Costa Rican government about potential violations of international law and environmental impacts that should be considered when evaluating this project. AIDA recommended suspending construction until the government could guarantee compliance with applicable laws and protection for the environment and human health. The Tribunal's recent decision is in line with AIDA’s arguments and reiterates the importance of complying with human rights and environmental laws.

We congratulate the Costa Rican organizations that worked tirelessly on this case, especially our participating organization, the Center for Environmental Law and Natural Resources (CEDARENA). We hope that this precedent and the repeal of the law allowing open-pit gold mining in Costa Rica will be replicated in other countries throughout the continent. In addition to the environmental benefits, this court decision will bring important social and economic benefits to the country.

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Finalized