The group of people claiming to be former gold miners have left the lands they occupied outside Corcovado National Park in southwestern Costa Rica after reaching an agreement with government officials.
The Environment Ministry said in a news release that the agreement, reached Tuesday afternoon, was possible thanks to negotiations held with representatives of Casa Presidencial, the Public Security Ministry, the Osa Conservation Area and and the National System of Conservation Area (SINAC).
Environment Minister Édgar Gutiérrez said authorities made a list of 170 people who say they are former gold miners who were evicted from the lands that are now part of the world-famous national park, located on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast.
Government officials pledged to evaluate options to compensate the group. Any financial assistance, however, would depend on an assessment that includes a comparison of the names on the list with previous lists of gold miners who received compentations in the past.
Officials also agreed to ask lawmakers to review the list of former miners included in a draft bill currently under discussion at the Legislative Assembly.
Bill #18,912 seeks to offer financial aid for former gold miners who were never compensated for their eviction from lands that are now part of Corcovado and of Piedras Blancas National Park. The government issued the decree for the creation of the protected area in 1975.
The parties agreed to meet again in two weeks to assess progress on the evaluation of previous lists and of the bill at the Assembly.
Officials from SINAC and the Public Security Ministry agreed to maintain surveillance in the area to prevent unauthorized entrance to the park.
No substantial damage
Carlos Madriz, the director of the Osa Conservation Area, told The Tico Times that the last group of demonstrators left the perimeter of the park on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday morning, park staff conducted an on-the-ground inspection of the nearly 2,000 square meters that demonstrators occupied starting on Sunday.
“Most of them removed their champas — improvised tents — and took all their belongings. Park staff took care of what was left,” he said.
Madriz said that they have not found evidence of damage to the flora or fauna inside the national park, considered one of the best in the world.
“Our inspection didn’t find any significant traces of work on soils or dumping of sediments into the river, nor poaching or any other damage inside the park,” he said.
However, he said they found evidence that some of the demonstrators might have been trying to find gold at Termo River, which flows next to the area where they camped.
Madriz confirmed that the protest did not have an impact on the park’s tourist operation, as it took place almost a kilometer (0.6 miles) from the nearest park entrance.
“We closed public access at one of the entrances on Monday, but only as a precaution. The park is now working as usual,” he said.
National Police officers and SINAC staff will remain in the area for a few more days to prevent any further protests, Madriz said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court earlier this month ordered the Costa Rican government to outline a plan to protect Corcovado National Park and other nearby areas from ongoing illegal actions from gold miners, loggers and poachers.