San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Environmentalists Tell Mine To Take a Hike

Costa Rican environmentalists announced Monday July 5 that they will march for seven days – covering roughly 170 kilometers – to protest the stalled open pit gold mine in Crucitas, near the Nicaraguan border.

Marchers will leave Monday, July 12 from Casa Presidencial in Zapote, a southeastern San José district, and plan to arrive in Crucitas on Sunday, July 18.

During the seven days, protesters will pass through Alajuela and Sarchí, northwest of San José, follow national highway route 15 and regional route 141 to Boca de Arenal and then continue along secondary roads to Crucitas.

Before departing, the group will present a petition to President Laura Chinchilla calling for the revocation of the executive decree that will allow the mine to operate if current court challenges are resolved in its favor.

The Crucitas gold mine project was first proposed in 1993. After a recent two-and-a-half year battle in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV), it was declared constitutional April 16. The court ruled that the project did not constitute an unacceptable threat to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, as guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. However, only hours after the Sala IV’s decision last April, the project was halted by an administrative appeals court, where a ruling on the legality of the project’s environmental impact study is still pending.

Crucitas opponents claim that the mine will cause irreparable damage such as deforestation, and soil and water pollution. Mine proponents deny the charges, saying the project will bring employment and economic opportunity to an economically depressed corner of Costa Rica.

A recent survey by the Institute of Social Studies in Population at the NationalUniversity found that 85.9 percent of Costa Ricans surveyed who have heard of the proposed mine oppose it. Only 4.6 percent of those polled said they favor the project (TT, July 2).

–Mike McDonald

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