San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Environmentalists Keep Pressure on Gold Mine

A group of environmentalists and concerned citizens gathered in front of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) in San José Wednesday to protest the Crucitas open pit gold mine near the Nicaraguan border.

Armed with a petition to stop the project and a green macaw-costumed mascot, the group cited environmental and social concerns as reasons not to continue the project.

“The green macaw is a symbol of conservation for this country, and if the Sala IV wants to keep that image they shouldn’t approve this mine,” said Luis Diego Marín, coordinator for Preserve Planet and of the protest.

Construction of the mine involves clearing forests in northern Costa Rica. Marín said most of the trees that must be cut for the project are government-protected almond trees, a species on which the endangered green macaws depend heavily for food.

Approving the mine’s continuation would mean breaking the law, Marín said.

The mine, which was proposed initially in 1993, has been through a long and controversial legal process of suspensions and approvals. Construction was begun in early 2008 but was halted within months due to legal and environmental concerns. The continuation of the project is now in the hands of the Sala IV.

Proponents of the mine have rejected charges of environmental damage, claiming that the almond tree and the green macaw will be affected only minimally.

The mine’s owners, a Costa Rican subsidiary of Canadian company Infinito Gold LTD, also say the creation of jobs would outweigh any environmental costs, but Marín believes the employment argument to be nothing more than problematic, short-term thinking.

“Mines eventually get mined out,” he said. “This mine will employ people for 11 years. After 11 years, what will they do? All that will be left behind will be the environmental problems caused by the clearing.”

The group of protestors presented the request to discontinue the project to the Sala IV Wednesday afternoon.

The Tico Times was unable to reach the mine’s owners by press time for their response to the protest.

–Mike McDonald


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