The roughly one thousand protesters that gathered outside the Supreme Court on Thursday represented more than a frustrated crowd of oppositionists.
The piles of people who´s “hearts say no” to the Crucitas gold mine are an informed group of resisters who see more harm than good in opening up northern Costa Rica to gold extraction.
Their arguments against the mine are both legal and scientific. They draw on failed mining experiences from the past and questionable presidential tactics that allowed the project in Crucitas to advance.
They criticize the environmental drawbacks of the mine, such as deforestation and toxic water and air contamination.
But beneath the charges of environmental impacts ignored and debatable legalities that the mine´s opponents hurl at the state, many of the mine´s opponents just don´t see the reasoning behind the 21st century gold rush. They can´t find justification for Costa Rica´s poor to work extracting a mineral that the world´s rich demand.
That the Crucitas project has been declared to be of “public interest” makes no sense to them.
“We don´t see how this can possibly be a priority,” said 24-year-old Cristina Mora. “Who needs this gold, and why? We live fine without it. It´s not the development model we need or want in Costa Rica.”
Mora´s doubts were shared by most of Thursday´s demonstrators, who crammed the streets that surround the Costa Rican Supreme Court to reaffirm their position: No to mining.
Just one week ago, the constitutional chamber (Sala IV) of that very court ruled that Crucitas had met all the requirements necessary in order to be considered constitutional and that a Canadian-based mining company may continue with all phases of the project.
In spite of the decision, the “no to the mine” movement is not deterred. The group appears as strong as it was nearly 18 months ago, when the first complaint against Crucitas entered the Sala IV.
On Thursday, university students and teachers, environmental and human rights groups rallied for support. Impassioned shouts of “leave it in the ground” and fervent chants of “Get out, get out” echoed for blocks.
A 6-foot-long banner held by four University of Costa Rica students swayed in the breeze. “We can live without gold, but we can´t live without water,” it read.
The movement´s leaders have charted a new course and are now fighting the mine´s legality in the administrative courts, a battle that promises to be as heated as Thursday´s rally.
With marchers ready to carry on, a young brunette grabbed the microphone.
“We say together, in a native choir, no to the open pit gold mine.”
See the April 23 print or digital edition of the The Tico Times for more on the Crucitas gold mine.