Thousands Protest Against Crucitas Gold Mine

Thousands of angry Costa Ricans swarmed the streets of downtown San José to protest the Constitutional Court’s April 19th approval to re-open a gold “strip mine” in Crucitas near the country’s northern boarder with Nicaragua.  The protest began at 10 am on the Court’s front steps but quickly grew to engulf the entire block.  Police were called in to keep the swarm of protesters away from the buildings exterior, and no confrontations occurred.  A little before noon the mass – its participants bearing banners, posters, megaphones, drums, and Costa Rican flags – began inching its way down the 10 block route to Central Park.  Traffic along 2nd Avenue was paralyzed as the peaceful protest gained strength amongst chants of “Si a la vida, no a la minería” (Yes to life, no to the mine).

In 2008, without prior consultation, President Oscar Arias’ administration lifted the moratorium on mining for metals in Costa Rica.  The decision opened up a mining Pandora’s box that allowed the Crucita’s strip mining proposal to be given environmental feasibility and declared of national benefit.  The Canadian mining company, Industrias Infinito S.A., took advantage of the situation and quickly bulldozed away more than fifty hectares of primary forest.  

Infinito’s handiwork was momentarily stopped by a court ordered injunction in 2009, a decision that came on the heals of 18 appeals filed on the grounds of unconstitutionality by social and environmental organizations.  But the Canadian mining project, the largest in Central America, was granted permission by the Constitutional Court (Sala IV) on April 19th to re-open its doors and continue with its plans to cut down a total of 260 forested hectares (over 600 acres) where a species of almond tree that provides habitat for the endangered green macaw grows. 
The mounting concern isn’t just over the green macaw and deforestation.  Extraction of gold particles from mountains of dirt requires cyanide, a highly toxic chemical compound used in gas chambers, be sprayed onto the extracted earth or ore.  The cyanide bonds with the tiny flecks of gold and leaches through the dirt onto a collection pad. 

The liberal spraying of a deadly material onto the remenants of a forested mountain now has a lot of people pissed-off.
The protest march is an example of growing public unrest over President Oscar Arias’ ambiguous environmental policy “Paz con la Naturaleza” (Peace with Nature).  The endeavor has gotten international attention through the administration’s PR campaign that promotes Costa Rica as a country where environmental concerns are given the closest attention.  However, there is growing animosity among Costa Rican at how Arias’ “Paz con la Naturaleza” plan is received with standing applause in foreign countries while here at home projects like the Crucitas mine are allowed to chew up some of the finest examples of Costa Rican biodiversity.

6 Responses to “Thousands Protest Against Crucitas Gold Mine”
  1. Max says:

    The liberal spraying of cyanide on a mountain? Really? In order to maintain credibility in protest you must stick to the facts, as the large environmental groups do. This random slagging will in the end be the downfall of your cause and that indeed will be a shame. Either the mine is bad for the environment or not, but making up stuff just plays into the hands of the other side.

    • Andy Bystrom says:

      Thanks for your comment Max. You make a good point as many environmental groups like to misconstrue facts.

      My “liberal spraying of cyanide on a mountain” comment is meant to be an attention grabbing statement that congers up images of low flying planes “crop dusting” the mountain sides. I guess it worked. And while it’s a bit far fetched, I feel the comment is an accurate description of the gold mining methodology for the general audience that visits this blog. Stacked against the pile of fallacies regarding environmental degradation and presence of endangered species presence in the area that Infinito S.A.’s PR campaign has publicized, there is no comparison (though I’m not trying to stoop to Infinito’s level).

      First for the “mountain” part of the comment:
      Open-pit mining refers to a method of extracting rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or burrow. The practice is implemented when the deposits (in this case gold) are found near the surface. The practice is different from underground mining methods that tunnel into the ground to extract deposits deep below the surface.

      In open-pit mining, companies must remove vast amounts of rock and materials and blast the entire site in order to open up access craters to the ore. After being brought to the surface, the ore must be processed to extract the gold in a procedure that generates huge quantities of waste. The amount of recoverable gold under ideal conditions is 1 to 2 ppm (grams per ton). This small fraction of gold to “mountain” produces 30 tons of waste for every ounce of gold produced.

      Now for the “liberal spraying of cyanide” part:

      Gold is extracted from the ore through a technique called “heap leaching” where it is piled into heaps. Cyanide – a weak solution containing 0.015 sodium cyanide – is then percolated over crushed ore to dissolve the gold. The resulting gold-cyanide solution is collected at the base of the heap and pumped to a mill, where the gold and cyanide are chemically separated. The cyanide is then stored in artificial ponds for reuse. The process takes a few months, and afterwards the heaps receive a layer of fresh ore (or as I say – mountain).

  2. Sergio says:

    Hi Andy:
    Just found your blog. Are you going to protest against the dredging of the San Juan river by Nicaragua or just against the imperialistic Canadian mining company.

    Show your true colors camarade.

  3. Gilles Prevost says:

    [ ]

    Bill C-300

    Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act, Canada (Octubre 2010)

    If passed, Bill C-300 will:

    * Put in place human rights, labour, and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries.
    * Create a complaints mechanism that will allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadians, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards.
    * Create a possible sanction for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.

  4. Mario says:

    What? No burning of the canadian flag? I bet you’ll find a few burning the stars and stripes.

    BTW, this is not isolated case. 70% of the world’s strip mining operations are from canadian companies. They are in germany right now, too.

  5. Well, they have been in Rosia Montana (Romania) for the last 10 years, still didn’t manage to open the mine.
    Please help, sign the Petition to save us from golddiggers:

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