San Juan River
Costa Rica | Cerro Crucitas : Infinito Gold
Cerro Crucitas in northern Costa Rica is an area covered mostly in forest that is part of the Pay y Agua Biosphere Reserve created in 2007. The region is home to farmers and a number of protected and Endangered species. These includes species like the Great Green Macaw and Geoffrey's spider monkey.
Canadian mining company Infinito Gold (Vannessa Ventures) is planning to destroy Cerro Crucitas and its forests. The Canadian company wants to put an open-pit gold mine in the area. Located in a region with heavy rainfall, the mine would also threaten to contaminate waterways with cyanide and heavy metals that could flow to the San Juan River on the nearby border with Nicaragua. The company was so intent on imposing the project on Costa Ricans that it inappropriately started cutting the forest down until a legal injunction stopped them.
In October 2010, the Costa Rican Supreme Court ordered Vannessa Ventures, which in May 2008 changed its name to Infinito Gold Ltd., to halt construction at the Crucitas mine after two local environmental groups filed the injuction. The company was thus forced to stop their clearing of 208 hectares (514 acres) of forests to make way for a pit and dailings dam. The ruling helped protect the yellow almond tree, which acts as vital habitat and food source for the endangered Great Green Macaw. In addition, the Chief Prosecutor's Office began a criminal investigation of President Oscar Arias and his environment minister who are accused of acting improperly when they gave Infinito approval to begin the clear-cutting.
The legal injunction against the project is still holding, but an additional legal process ruled in favor of the company. Meanwhile, communities are continuing to mobilize to oppose the destruction, and succeeded in convincing the new President Laura Chinchilla to restore a ban on gold mining in Costa Rica.
In response to this court decision, Infinito is now suing the Costa Rican government under investment agreements signed between national circumvent local social and environmental regulations. This legal action would result in a trial in a World Bank tribunal that is inaccessible to the public.
It is unclear when a tribunal hearing would be held, but in the mean time communities are now working on stopping the project for good. People from around the world have urged the President to stop the project and thousands of Earthworks members have demanded Infinito Gold to drop the lawsuit.
For more information:
- Fuera de Crucitas ("Out of Crucitas"): www.fueradecrucitas.com/
- Earthblog: Crucitas
- Earthworks: The Bellavista mine disaster in Costa Rica.
- Reuter: Costa Rica halts Canadian firm's gold mine work. 21 October 2008.
- Tico Times: Arias administration under fire for logging in Las Crucitas. 28 October 2008.