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Latham Secures Complete Victory for the Republic of Colombia in Major International Environmental Dispute

March 4, 2024
Cross-office team defeats a US$130 million claim brought under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Latham & Watkins has secured a complete victory on behalf of the Republic of Colombia (Colombia) in an arbitration initiated by Red Eagle Exploration Limited (Red Eagle), a Canadian junior mining company, before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The team defeated the US$130 million claim brought under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Red Eagle alleged that Colombia’s ban on mining in the “páramos,” a rare and extremely fragile high-altitude moorland ecosystem located in the Colombian Andes, destroyed Red Eagle’s gold mining project and breached the FTA’s prohibition on expropriation and the customary international law minimum standard of treatment.

After extensive briefing over several years, Latham represented Colombia at a five-day merits hearing held at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in February 2023. On February 28, 2024, the Tribunal rendered its final award dismissing all claims on the merits. The Tribunal adopted Latham’s arguments on the interpretation of the FTA and international law and recognized that páramos are essential for the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change. As such, the Tribunal concluded that the State’s ban on mining in such areas was a legitimate exercise of the State’s right to regulate in the public interest and did not breach international law.

The team was led by International Arbitration partners, Fernando Mantilla-Serrano in Paris, and London partner Samuel Pape in London, with associates Diego Romero and Hugo Varenne in Paris.