MAC: Mines and Communities

Costa Rica lawmakers vote to ban open-pit mining

Published by MAC on 2010-11-16
Source: Reuters

On April 2008, the Costa Rica government signed a decree to permit the granting of new open-pit gold mining projects in the country, thus lifting a moratorium under effect since 2002.

Moments after assuming the presidency of Costa Rica in May 2010, Laura Chinchilla signed an executive decree that places a moratorium on open-pit gold mining in the country. The decree repeals the 2008 executive order issued by her predecessor, Oscar Arias.

The mining ban, reinforced by the national congress last week, also excludes the country's biggest gold mining project Crucitas, being disputed in a court case for the past weeks.

Given the recent attacks by president Chinchilla herself on anti-mining activists, and a non-committal response given to hunger strikers, the move may simply represent an intermediate concession to public opinion, prior to a final push towards re-invograting the country's mining industry.

For its part, Infinito Gold has been actively supporting local political pro-mining campaigns providing them with cash for the next elections, says the newspaper El Pais.


Costa Rica lawmakers vote to ban open-pit mining


10 November 2010

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Costa Rica's congress voted on Tuesday to ban all new open-pit mining projects, citing environmental concerns, without blocking the development of the country's only major gold mine.

The small Central American country prides itself on jungle wilderness that draws tourists and the lawmakers who proposed the initiative say open-pit methods to dig for metals can cause deforestation and destruction of wildlife habitat.

Less than one percent of Costa Rica's gross domestic product comes from metals mining.

President Laura Chinchilla, who passed a moratorium on mining shortly after taking office this past May, is likely to sign the bill into law, said Jose Castro, head of mining at the Environment Ministry.

"Costa Rica is a country that has dedicated itself to protecting the environment," Castro told Reuters. "We think it is contradictory to promote the environment and continue to pursue mining activity," he said.

The law will not affect the country's biggest gold mining project Crucitas, owned by Canadian company Infinito Gold Ltd, which already has an environmental permit to operate although a court ruling has stalled the mine's development.

Crucitas has an indicated resource of 1.2 million ounces of gold and was declared a project of national interest by Chinchilla's predecessor Oscar Arias. The company says Crucitas will not cause environmental damage.

The law passed on Tuesday is not retroactive and can only be applied to future projects, said Claudio Monge, a legislator whose Citizen's Action Party proposed the ban five years ago.

Some other Central American countries, like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have also put the breaks on new mining projects.

(Reporting by Alex Leff; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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