Another Immoral Bid to Sue a Government
Well I never realized this kind of thing went on, but now it’s all coming out into the open. This business of big corporations suing governments. I had no idea they could! Let’s see whether we can oppose this undermining of democracy, this sinister way in which corporations are trying to use their muscle for immoral agendas (see post about Philip Morris tobacco suing the Australian government two posts down)
Look at this latest one sent by SumofUs.org:
Infinito Gold, a Canadian mining company, just slapped Costa Rica with a $1 billion lawsuit because the nation decided to protect its rainforests rather than host an open-pit gold mine.
Costa Rica’s rainforest is lauded as one of the most beautiful in the world, and is home to many endangered species, including the green macaw. Officials considered approving the gold mine, but the use of toxic chemicals such as cyanide — which often leaks into and pollutes nearby lakes and rivers — was far too great a risk to allow the project to move forward.
A subsidiary of Infinito Gold has announced that a massive lawsuit against Costa Rica is “imminent”, so we need to act now. If thousands of us stand together against this toxic mine, we can show Infinito that Costa Rica and other countries that are defending their natural resources will not be silently bullied by corporate power.
Tell Infinito Gold to drop its $1 billion lawsuit against Costa Rica.
Open-pit gold mining in Costa Rica would destroy 190 hectares of pristine forest. The rainforest houses 5% of the world’s species and has seen tremendous growth in the ecotourism industry. Over 75% of Costa Ricans oppose mining and have decided that they cannot take the risk to move forward with gold mining in the country.
And Costa Rica is not the first to be sued by Infinito Gold. In 2001, Infinito Gold locked Venezuela into a ten-year legal battle over a rejected mine. Fortunately, Infinito lost. We can make sure Infinito Gold loses again by standing up to its greedy tactics and shameful behavior. Corporate profits cannot take precedence over the health of the people and the environment.
Stand up for Costa Rica’s rainforests — tell Infinito Gold to drop the $1 billion lawsuit now.
Thanks for taking a stand,
Thanks for the post Philip – this is utterly despicable!
Free market economists I bump into (and I do meet quite a few of them here) often say that it is perfectly acceptable for states to intervene in cases of what they call “market failure” – a glib little term which basically describes any occasion when market forces are unable to restrain idiotic or damaging behaviour on the part of individuals or companies.
However, as I always say, companies are fully prepared to oppose this whenever it suits their profit margins!
In addition to signing the petition, I went to Infinito Gold’s website and left a little message…
I would like to register my outrage at your subsidary – Industrias Infinito, S.A. – choosing to mount legal action against the Costa Rican Government for its choice to preserve rainforest in the north of its territory by blocking an open-cast gold mining operation there.
Instances like this demonstrate not only the callous disregard corporations have for the environment, but their complete intolerance towards the forces of democracy. A global, civil society consensus, lead by the people of Costa Rica, blocked this decision. Why should the people of Costa Rica now be punished (it isn’t a rich country, after all), just in order to balance your books? Neither the environment, nor the public purse should be made to suffer because of your company being in an exploitative and damaging industry.
I have just signed a petition to the effect of lodging a protest with you. I hope that will encourage your board and legal team to reconsider their current plan.
But I also wanted to make a personal plea – to whoever reads this. You’re probably just an ordinary person, working to make ends meet. I’m sure you have dreams, and hopes for the future. Things you wish you were doing right now. And I bet they don’t involve manning the PR desk for some strip-mining conglom. I know that place, because four months ago, I was in a very similar position (working for a law firm with links to the oil and gas industry).
So here is my invitation. If you can – leave. Leave right now. If you can’t – if you have dependents – then get out as soon as you can. Do what you love instead. I did it, and I’m now doing a PhD on environmental change – and I hope, making the world that bit better.
And when you leave, don’t give a second thought to the ecocidal monstrosity you’re leaving in the lurch. It doesn’t deserve the tax colónes of the people of Costa Rica, and it certainly doesn’t deserve you.
Because you are wonderful.
All the best,
Heartbreaking. The power that has been given to corporations is one of the greatest failure of our time. There should be a hierarchy of legal power that puts Nature first, then society, then individuals and places corporations at the bottom. Sadly we have the hierarchy the wrong way up.
Good people spent hundreds of years getting some kind of freedom, equity and democracy. Western governments are now giving it all away.
Can someone answer the following questions – which appalling trade agreement did Costa Rica get conned into signing, that allows a private company to sue? Who on Earth is in a high enough position to hear and make a judgement a case like this? Why don’t Costa Rica tell Infinito Gold to go to hell?
As the agreement was signed 5 days ago isn’t all this a bit horse and gate? Like fracking this agreement lays naked the fact that government works for global business and not for individuals.
Agreement that they could go ahead and mine Simon?
No Philip the free trade agreement that allowed corporations to sue governments.
The “Blame” for want of a better word regarding this lawsuit rests solely on the Costa Rican politicians. Three successive administrations allowed Las Crucitas to proceed. They took money directly from Infinito in the form of a security bond, they let the company spend millions upgrading local roads,spend money on schools and invest in local infrastructure. After obtaining all the necessary permits required to develop the mine and after the company bought and installed the mining machinery, Infinito was informed that the project is annulled. For the record, the Costa Rican government did not cancel the project as that would be a direct breach of contract. A lower administrative court overturned a Sala 1V Supreme Court decision which had approved the project. Infinito’s security bond was subsequently confiscated. That is why the government has no comment on thr project other than to say that the courts have decided the matter.
The time to cancel the project was during the permitting approval process, thereby avoiding this lawsuit but no, Costa Rica took the money and let the company invest millions more. Incidentally, the company’s environmental impact study was described by the environment minister as exceeding that which was required. This is why Infinito is taking the case to International arbitration. Also, for the record, the Sala 1V court , in approving the project and dismissing all objections against the mine, noted that the mine area did not destroy virgin forest and that the green macaws habitat was not affected.
I personally believe in respecting the environment, so also does Infinito. At the end of the project, the mining area was to be replanted with more trees than previously existed.
This lawsuit reaches far beyond the question of environmental protection. Due to the ineptness of the Costa Rican political system it boils down to a breach of an international trade agreement. The International Centre for the settlement of investment disputes ICSID will decide the case. The ICSID is supported by the world bank and has the power to disregard local decisions when delivering its ruling.
It should never have got this far and I hope the people of Costa Rica make their feelings known at the ballot box.
Thank you for this Stewart. These issues are always more complex than at first sight, and it’s good to remember that!