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.