Costa Rica: activists fast to protest gold mine
On Oct. 22 three Costa Rican environmental activists marked two weeks on hunger strike against the projected Las Crucitas open-pit gold mine in San Carlos in the north of the country. Some 14 activists from two organizations, the North Front Against Mining and the Not One Mine Coordinating Committee, began the action on Oct. 8 in an encampment in front of the Presidential Residence in San José. Most of the 14 ended their fast for medical reasons but continued to support the three remaining strikers.
The activists were demanding the cancellation of Environment and Energy Ministry executive decree 34-8001 of 2008, in which former president Oscar Arias (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) declared the mine a matter of "national interest." This eased the way for permits which were given out "in proceedings considered irregular, especially in respect to the truthfulness of environmental impact studies," according to the Ecological Action Network (Renace), a Costa Rican organization in solidarity with the hunger strikers.
Activists say that the mining operation will destroy 200 hectares of forest and that the use of cyanide in gold extraction will contaminate two aquifers and affect the San Juan River, which marks the border with Nicaragua. According to Renace, 90% of Costa Rica's population opposes the project.
Costa Rica's current president, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, has said that she wants the country to move away from mining but that abrogating the permits might "expose the state to lawsuits in international bodies that could affect our development and our public finances." Her government has said it will abide by the decision of a Costa Rican court which is currently considering the matter.
The mine is to be owned and operated by Infinito Gold Ltd, formerly Vanessa Ventures, which is based in Calgary, Canada. The company--which expects to extract 700,000 ounces of gold (19.8 tons) in 10 years, for a value of some $800 million--says the mine will create jobs and has promised to reforest hundreds of hectares of terrain. Infinito Gold claims to use the most modern "green mining" methods. (Adital, Brazil, Oct. 20, Oct. 21, Oct. 22; EFE, Oct. 22, via Terra.com)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 24.