MAC: Mines and Communities

Costa Rica Cracks Down on Mining and Logging

Published by MAC on 2002-06-11

Costa Rica Cracks Down on Mining and Logging

San Jose, Costa Rica, June 11, 2002

Source: Environmental News Service (ENS) (US)

The government of Costa Rica has created a new national park, lowered the boom on illegal logging operations, and placed a moratorium on new open pit gold mines. President Abel Pacheco signed the measures as part of World Environment Day celebrations June 5.

Energy and Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Echandi said Costa Ricans are not interested in opening their country for mineral exploitation at the cost of the environment. Gold mining uses cyanide to leach gold from ore, and critics fear the cyanide will be released into Costa Rican waterways.

The executive decree cancels three mining contracts already in place. President Pacheco said, "If the price for protecting the environment" is paying damages, Costa Rica will do so. "We have many reasons for rescinding these contracts, and if they sue us for compensation it will be cheaper than paying for the loss of the country and its environment."

The new national park, the country's 28th, is the former Zona Protectora La Cangreja near Puriscal about 25 miles west of the capital city of San José. The mountainous 1,861 hectares (4,600 acres) has been a protected zone since 1984. It has been a project of Fundación Ecotrópico, which has been buying land and promoting the area since 1988.

In his logging decree, President Pacheco cited a study showing that 34 percent of commercial logging in Costa Rica is illegal. Under the new regulations tree logs can only be transported in Costa Rica from 5 am to 9 pm Monday through Friday. Loggers must tag each log and be able to show where it was harvested. Fixed and mobile points of control run by the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Public Security will monitor lumber transports, and police will be able to confiscate for investigation lumber and trucks moving during the night or without permission.

The Costa Rican president will be in Washington, DC Thursday for a meeting with President George W. Bush. President Pacheco said Sunday night in his weekly television talk that he would seek Bush's help and cooperation in a number of areas, including the environment. Bush has proposed that a free trade area be created in Central America in advance of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is supposed to take effect from Canada to Chile in 2005.

The Costa Ricans are seeking some environmental guarantees in whatever free trade treaties that might be negotiated, President Pacheco said.


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