Colombia not liable to pay $736m to Eco Oro Minerals

Angostura gold project in northeastern Colombia. Credit: Eco Oro Minerals

Colombia’s government said on Friday a World Bank tribunal has ruled it is currently not liable to pay $736 million in damages to Eco Oro Minerals Corp after the Canadian mining company alleged that the Andean nation’s prohibition on mining in high-altitude wetlands constituted an indirect expropriation.

In its own statement, Eco Oro celebrated that the tribunal found Colombia acted in violation of investment protection norms enshrined in the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia, which means the case will continue.

Eco Oro pulled out of the Angostura gold concession in 2019 after the project’s area in Santander province was cut in half by a constitutional court ruling and new regulations that expanded wetland protections. It said the change made the project, in which it had invested some $250 million, impossible.

The legal case, where the company alleged the restrictions amounted to indirect expropriation of its investment, began in 2016.

Colombia’s National Agency for Judicial Defense of the State said in a statement that the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes tribunal recognized that the measure was not discriminatory toward Eco Oro shareholders and was an effort to legitimately protect the environment.

“The tribunal recognized the fundamental role of the wetlands as sources and regulators for the water cycle, amid global phenomena like climate change,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, Eco Oro said the tribunal has requested more information from the two sides on potential damages related to the violation of the free trade agreement.

“Eco Oro is pleased that the Tribunal has acknowledged that Colombia violated the Treaty in taking measures that put an end to the Angostura Project,” chief executive Paul Robertson said in the statement. “Eco Oro looks forward to the issuance of the Tribunal’s decision on the issue of compensation.”

(By Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Mark Porter and Aurora Ellis)

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