On February 19, Cosigo Resources, a Canadian mining company, and the U.S. Tobie Mining and Energy filed an arbitration notice in the U.S. state of Texas. Their legal basis: the free trade agreements between Colombia and the United States and Canada. These stipulate that foreign corporations can sue governments before investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) panels – for example if they believe that a country’s labor, environmental or social standards would be bad for their bottom line.
The companies had been granted mining licenses in Colombia’s Amazonas Department only days after the area in question had been declared the Yaigojé Apaporis National Park. The rainforest on the border to Brazil is home to seven indigenous peoples and a hotbed of biodiversity. The national park was established in 2009 at the request of the indigenous communities.
Cosigo Resources spent years in the Colombian courts attempting to get the national park status overturned and open the land to exploitation. In 2015, the Constitutional Court in Bogotá ruled that the national park is lawful and that gold mining would not be permitted there.
The mining companies are now seeking to run roughshod over Colombia’s judicial system by taking the case before an ISDS panel in Texas. They are suing the Colombian government for no less than $16.5 billion – as compensation for the alleged value of the gold deposit the miners had intended to exploit.