COSTA RICA MINING REGULATION
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. Gold is mined on the southern Pacific coast and in the northwestern regions of the country; however some controversy exists as to the ecological impact of the methods employed in these extractions. Silver is also mined in the western part of the country but not extensively. Other mineral deposits found in the country include manganese, nickel, mercury, and sulphur, but these remain undeveloped. Petroleum deposits have also been identified in the southeastern region, but their exploitation has been deemed uneconomical. Salt is produced from seawater.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
Costa Rica’s principal mining legislation comprises the National Constitution of 7th November 1949, the Mining Code (1982)(No. 6797) and the Mining Regulation (2001). All natural resources belong to the State, which may grant exploration and mining rights to individuals or entities, national and foreigners with domicile or legal representative within the national territory, through the General Mining Directorate (DGM). The DGM is the main regulatory body, responsible for assessing, granting and monitoring exploration and mining concessions. Hydrocarbons, radioactive minerals, hydroelectric energy, among others, are reserved by the State. The last amendment to the Mining Code (Law No. 894) prohibited the granting of exploration permits and exploitation concessions for developing open pit mining activities, which reflects an increasing movement to protect Costa Rica’s tourism, beauty and biodiversity from the impacts of the more disruptive forms of mining.
GRANT AND FORMS OF MINERAL TITLE
Mining rights come into effect from their registration in the National Registry. There are two principal forms of title identified in the Mining Code, namely, exploration permits and exploitation concessions:
- Exploration Permit - allows the holder exclusive access to explore for minerals listed in the licence (Art. 19); the applicant may specify the minerals being sought and, ultimately, can seek to protect its right to other minerals if they are found (Art. 28). The permit is granted for three years, but may be renewed for a further two years (Arts. 20 and 23(a)). Each period is subject to the discretion of the DGM. The maximum area per permit is 20 km².
- Exploitation Concession - provides the holder with a right to extract minerals. An exploitation concession may be granted by the Minister for a period of 25 years and may be renewed for a further 10 years (Art. 30). In exceptional circumstances of known mineralization, the applicant may obtain an exploitation concession without holding an exploration permit (Art. 27). The concession area ranges between 1km² and 10 km². Mining activities must commence within the first two years of the concession and may not be suspended for more than six months, otherwise the mining concession may be cancelled. In order to obtain an exploitation concession it is necessary to complete a technical report and an EIA.
Pursuant to the Mining Code and Annex I of the EIA Procedures Regulation, all exploration and mining activities are subject to an environmental review process and one can assume that a mine will require an EIA. An EIA can only be carried out by an Environmental Consultant who has been approved by SETENA (the government agency responsible for environmental assessments). The timelines and procedures for an EIA evaluation are clearly set out in legislation and regulations. The holder of an exploration permit or mining concession is entitled to occupy surface land via an easement, with the prior agreement of the landowner. When an agreement cannot be reached, the titleholder may require the government to commence expropriation procedures.
See Costa Rica Environmental Regulation.