Sandinista Leader Opposes Costa Rican Gold Mines

August 20, 2004

SANDINISTA leader and formerNicaraguan President Daniel Ortega(1985-1990) has denounced what he callsthe Nicaraguan government’s “indolentattitude” toward the threat of contaminationof the San Juan River, posed by aplanned open-pit gold mine in Costa Rica.“I am certain that in the NationalAssembly… Sandinista deputies will presentinitiatives to go to the defense, sothat they do not poison the San JuanRiver,” Ortega told reporters earlier thismonth.If approved by Costa Rican governmentofficials, the mine, managed byIndustrias Infinito S.A., the Costa Ricansubsidiary of Canada-based VannessaVentures, would be built in the NorthernZone town of Las Crucitas, which sitsacross the San Juan River fromNicaragua (TT, July 23). The river is apart of Nicaraguan territory, but itssouthern bank forms part of the borderwith Costa Rica.Wire services reported that a technicalcommittee from the Nicaraguan Ministryof Natural Resources and theEnvironment (MARENA) visited the proposedmining site and determined there isa possibility of contamination of the river.The committee mentioned threats ofcontamination from cyanide – used toextract gold from the ore that contains it –and sedimentation that could be depositedinto the river by water or wind.The proposed mine is one of two concessionsdeclared exempt from a moratoriumon open-pit mining signed by CostaRican President Abel Pacheco in 2002. Theother project, located near the Pacific porttown of Puntarenas, is managed by RíoMinerales, S.A.Costa Rican officials have said theycould make a decision about the LasCrucitas mine by the end of this month, followinga public hearing held July 31.

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