miércoles, 15 de enero de 2014
EMPRESA MINERA CANADIENSE MANTIENE IDEA DE PROCESO DE ARBITRAJE SIN HABER PRESENTADO RECLAMO ANTE EL CIADI CONTRA COSTA RICA
Foto de manifestación contra el proyecto minero Crucitas de la empresa canadiense Infinito Golds en San José, Costa Rica (extraída de una nota del rotativo Tico Times).
En el día de hoy, una nota de prensa publicada en Costa Rica indica que la empresa minera Infinito Gold mantiene la idea de un arbitraje internacional contra Costa Rica por la suspensión del proyecto minero ubicado en Las Crucitas. El monto indemnizatorio pretendido por la empresa minera contra Costa Rica es de 1.092 millones de US$ y el ente llamado a conocer de esta demanda es el CIADI (Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Disputas entre Inversionista Extranjero y Estado, también conocido por sus siglas ICSID en inglés o CIRDI en francés), un órgano adscrito al Banco Mundial.
La amenaza de recurrir a este arbitraje ante el CIADI fue anunciada, como bien se sabe, en el mes de abril del 2013 durante una conferencia de prensa en Costa Rica (ver nota de La Nación). No obstante a la fecha, el reclamo formal ante el CIADI no ha sido presentado por el inversionista extranjero canadiense: el pasado 4 de octubre del 2013 se cumplieron los 6 meses de preaviso que estipula el tratado bilateral de inversiones entre Costa Rica y Canadá que la empresa minera menciona en su carta enviada a las autoridades de Comercio Exterior en abril pasado (ver texto completo).
Cabe recordar que en una histórica decisión dictada el 24 de noviembre del 2010 (ver texto completo de la sentencia del TCA), el Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo de Costa Rica anuló todos los actos jurídicos sobre los que se sustentaba dicho proyecto minero y recomendó una investigación por parte de la Fiscalía a altos responsables políticos (incluyendo al Presidente Oscar Arias Sánchez) y a funcionarios de entidades a cargo del ambiente. En relación al inversionista extranjero canadiense, el Tribunal dictaminó que: “Además, todo empresario o inversionista, nacional o extranjero, tiene la certeza de que si cumple con los requisitos normativos, podrá llevar adelante su actividad, pero que, si no los cumple, no podrá desarrollarla. En ese sentido, esta sentencia sólo viene a reforzar la certeza de los empresarios e inversionistas sobre a qué deben atenerse. No puede invocarse la seguridad jurídica o la inversión extranjera para pretender mantener vigente conductas administrativas completamente ilegales” (párrafo XXX). Dicha sentencia fue confirmada por la Sala Primera de Costa Rica en noviembre del 2011 en todos su extremos por voto unánime de sus integrantes.
A inicios del 2013 una decisión del CIADI a favor de Venezuela en relación a una demanda similar por un monto similar de la empresa minera canadiense anteriormente a cargo de este proyecto minero en Costa Rica arrojó algunas dudas sobre las posiciones oficiales defendidas por autoridades de Costa Rica en el mes de julio del 2010 (ver breve artículo publicado en Costa Rica Hoy).
Por alguna coincidencia, en este mismo día de hoy se publica en Embassy News (Canadá) un extenso artículo (ver texto) que da cuenta de la intensa labor de varias ONGs de Canadá en la colecta de firmas contra este arbitraje, así como de las serias limitaciones que estipula el tratado bilateral de inversiones (TBI por sus siglas en español o FIPA por sus siglas en inglés) para el inversionista en este preciso caso. Reproducimos al final de esta nota el artículo de Embassy News publicado este 15/01/2014.
Embassy News, 15/01/2014
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS SIGN INFINITO PETITION
Published: Wednesday, 01/15/2014 12:00 am EST Last Updated: Wednesday, 01/15/2014 12:14 am EST
A recent petition asking Calgary-based Infinito Gold to drop its threat to take the Costa Rican government to the World Bank’s international court is just shy of 300,000 signatures—far more than its creators had hoped.
But despite the flood of public outcry, both governments are staying quiet on the longstanding feud between the mining company and the environmentally conscientious Central American country, refusing to speak about the impending lawsuit or the ongoing investigation into former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Rick Arnold, former co-ordinator for Common Frontiers who has been following the case closely for years, said he and several others concerned with Infinito’s actions began collecting signatures a few days before the company’s Nov. 21 annual general meeting.
“We ended up getting some 10,000 [signatures] which were delivered to CEO John Morgan on Nov. 21,” he wrote to Embassy.
“What we didn’t realize at the time was that the campaign was actually just gathering steam and by later in December we had reached the amazing total of over 300,000 signatures from people all around the world demanding that Infinito cease and desist.”
A separate communiqué signed by a handful of Canadian non-governmental organizations—including MiningWatch Canada, the Council of Canadians, and Common Frontiers—about the same issue also asks the Canadian government to “revise or renegotiate its existing trade and investment agreements.”
The letter was sent to Mr. Morgan, Infinito’s lawyers, high-level Costa Rican government officials, Trade Minister Ed Fast, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Canada and Costa Rica’s current ambassadors, and NDP and Liberal trade critics, among others. Infinito Gold’s Costa Rican subsidiary, Industrias Infinito SA, is using the 1999 Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement between Canada and Costa Rica as grounds for its lawsuit. The company claims it invested more than $92 million into the project, which never got past the clear-cutting of trees.
Infinito’s Las Crucitas mine, located in the North of the country near the border with Nicaragua, has been stalled since 2010.
The company has been on the losing end of a number of legal battles since the country’s Supreme Court annulled Infinito’s permit, and upheld a ban on open pit mining, ending years of flip-flopping on the decision by Costa Rican courts and governments.
Who benefits most from the FIPA?
The communiqué signed by Canadian NGOs asks the Costa Rican government to “withdraw...from legal measures (such as the 1999 FIPA with Canada) that have made it subject to international arbitration that serves mainly to protect corporate interests over the public good.”
In response to the communiqué’s request to make changes to its bilateral investment and trade agreements, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development spokesperson Caitlin Workman wrote that Canada’s agreements with Costa Rica “support Costa Rica’s ongoing efforts to achieve greater peace, prosperity and respect for human rights. Such agreements also increase trade and investment between Costa Rica and Canada, and help alleviate poverty and create new wealth and opportunity.”
One Costa Rican attorney and international law professor says the bilateral agreement actually favours the Costa Rican government and predicts it will be the company’s downfall. Juan Jose Obando, an attorney and professor of private international law at the Universidad de Costa Rica, told Embassy that the FIPA between the two countries contains two provisions that would protect the Costa Rican government in this case.
The first is a “fork in the road” provision, common in such agreements, said Mr. Obando. Article 12, Section 3 B of the Canada-Costa Rica FIPA states that the investor may only submit its dispute to an international tribunal if it waived its right to take the issue to any level of court in the country where it has invested.
An investor has to either choose the local judicial system to make its complaints, or can take its case to an international tribunal—it cannot do both, he said. Since Infinito Gold has exhausted several legal channels in Costa Rica on this issue already, Mr. Obando said it decided which path to take, and can’t backtrack.
But there is one other clause in the bilateral treaty that gives the Costa Rican government the upper hand, said Mr. Obando, who added that it’s the first time he’s seen it included in a FIPA. Article 12, Section 3 D states that the Canadian investor may only take a complaint against the Costa Rican government to an international court if “no judgment has been rendered by a Costa Rican court regarding the measure that is alleged to be in breach of this agreement.” Since several courts have ruled against Infinito’s appeal for its mining rights over the years, Mr. Obando argued the complaint is dead in the water.
Governments staying quiet
Although repeated attempts to get comment from Infinito Gold have gone unanswered, a news release on its website from Mr. Morgan said the company “completed all the environmental, social and technical studies and obtained all approvals required under Costa Rican law to develop and operate the Las Crucitas Project.”
Most critics of the mine raise environmental concerns, but Infinito has long maintained that it has an environmental management plan and it would pay for “periodic independent environmental audits.”
Despite a countrywide ban against open pit mining at the time, in 2008 then-President Oscar Arias made an exception and granted Infinito Gold permission to continue with its project in the national interests of the country. That permit was later revoked by the country’s highest court.
Costa Rica’s Attorney General is now investigating the Arias administration, and the alleged payment of $200,000 by Infinito’s main shareholder Ronald Mannix to Mr. Arias’s foundation within weeks of his decision to give back permission to the company to mine.
The Costa Rican media has reported that Canada’s Justice department was asked to provide the Costa Rican government financial information relevant to this alleged payment by Mr. Mannix, and that the Canadian government obliged in February 2013—although the attorney general has been reported as saying that the Canadian government did not answer all of its questions.
Canada has denied requests to make public any information it has about the alleged payment to the Arias Foundation. When Embassy asked if the government could confirm receipt of a request from the Costa Rican government to provide information, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Claude Rochon wrote that “the government of Canada does not comment on private commercial disputes that are in a legal process.”
Costa Rica’s ambassador in Ottawa, Luis Carlos Delgado, also denied requests for an interview, stating that the embassy is not permitted to make a statement on the topic because of “legal issues.”
In a May 2013 email to Embassy on the same topic, Mr. Delgado wrote that “the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica will act in the name of the state, accordingly, when the appropriate time comes to defend the thesis of Costa Rica in this one case [within] a successful commercial relationship.”
Publicado por Curso de Derecho Internacional. Costa Rica en 6:02