Costa Rica’s Administrative Contention Tribunal, an appeals court that reviews the actions of government agencies, has approved precautionary measures that prolong the suspension of work at the Crucitas open-pit gold mine in northern Costa Rica.
The tribunal’s decision to freeze the project last Friday came one week after it received a petition signed by environmental groups. The groups claim that President Oscar Arias’ decree to allow a Canadian mining company to extract gold from Crucitas is unsupported by the facts and presents an imminent threat to the environment.
In its ruling, the tribunal said: “We could be facing serious damage that is difficult or impossible to repair; in this case, the public interest must prevail. Therefore, the court rules to uphold the precautionary measures.”
The Costa Rican Wild Flora and Fauna Preservation Association, which presented the claims, also charges that the National Secretariat of the Environment Ministry (SETENA) approved faulty environmental viability studies for the mine.
The suspension came despite a high court ruling that the project poses no environmental threat.
The motion states that if the mine project goes forward, mining chemicals and deforestation could cause irreparable damage to the area’s environment, endangering the health of both nearby communities and wildlife habitats.
The mining company Industrias Infinito S.A. – owned by Canadian miners Infinito Gold Ltd. – has not commented directly on the new claims but has previously refuted accusations that its project will cause environmental harm.
“We wish to tell the Costa Rican people and especially our neighboring communities that Crucitas will be a mine that is economically profitable, socially responsible and environmentally safe,” the company said in a statement last week.
But Flora and Fauna said the project’s economic benefits would not justify the “socio-environmental costs” that it would provoke, rendering the project illegal under the country’s Forestry Law.
The group is urging the court to nullify the executive decree and the environmental impact studies, ending the possibility that mining could take place in Crucitas in the short-term.
The gold mine project will be suspended indefinitely while judges analyze the legality of the decree and the mine’s environmental impact studies.
In the meantime, several environmental experts and lawyers who are opposed to the mine are drafting their own motions to present to the tribunal.
Other groups are also preparing criminal cases against officials of SETENA for prevarication