MAC: Mines and Communities

Costa Rican Catholics condemn unethical mining

Published by MAC on 2010-02-15
Source: Costa Rican Episcopal Conference

Costa Rica's Catholic Church has issued a call for a "definitive moratorium" on open-cast metallic exploration and mining throughout the country.

It specifically condemns the country's most controversial project, already delayed for well over a year. See:


Declaration of the Costa Rican Episcopal Conference on open cast metal mining

Translated by Maggie Scrimgeour and edited by Richard Solly

“The Church has a responsibility towards Creation and this is worthy of being made public. In so doing, the Church ought not only to defend the earth, water and air as gifts of creation which belong to all. Above all, the Church must protect man against his own destruction.” Benedict XVI (Charity in truth No 51).

1. As citizens and Pastors of the Catholic Church of Costa Rica, we feel the need to shed light on the open cast chemical mining project in Las Crucitas de Cutris de San Carlos, in the province of Alajuela, which has been declared to be in the public and state interest.

2. We do this with the help of the ethical and legal principles of prevention and precaution as outlined in the Social Doctrine of the Church (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 468 and 469) and also the right which assists the Costa Rican population and conforms to our Political Constitution Article 50 which states, “everyone has the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. Therefore it is legitimate to denounce acts which infringe this right and to demand the reclamation and redressing of the damage caused. The State will guarantee, defend and preserve this right. The law will determines these responsibilities and their corresponding sanctions.”

3. According to what various diverse scientific studies have demonstrated , open cast chemical mining has serious negative environmental impacts, principally in areas of rich biodiversity like ours: impacts such as the destruction of woodland, long term effects on the ground and geomorphology, atmospheric pollution by dust, lead and mercury as well as the emissions of greenhouse gases, the alteration of surface and ground water resources as well as the use and dangerous storage of toxic substances such as cyanide; impacts on fauna and the countryside as well as the health risks faced by the workers and the nearby communities caused by the aforementioned pollutants.

4. Therefore we think it fitting and of supreme importance that we continue on the path initiated by policies and efforts aimed at managing development in a way which is more harmonious with nature. In this vein, we believe that what should carry weight is not a utilitarian and economic vision but a serious technical and ethical evaluation on the real balance of risks and hypothetical benefits of any activity, in a way which pertains to the collective good. We continue supporting a model of sustainable development initiated by our country and its policies of peace with nature. It is important to place emphasis on these questions and analyse the environmental, social, economic and legal damages of this project.

5. It is not right that a project like this, where particular interests are taking precedence over the common good, should divide our rural communities, without taking into account that this is a risky activity and without looking at the responsibility we have to future generations as expressed by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, “the costs paid to utilize communal natural resources cannot fall on future generations.” (1)

6. Due to all of the above and in pursuit of the common good for our beloved Costa Rica, we respectfully ask the President of the Republic, Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez, to repeal Decree Number 34801-MINAET, which declares that the Crucitas mining project is in the public interest and to the benefit of the nation, as well as ignoring all the investments in metal mining on national territory. We also request a definitive moratorium on the exploration and exploitation of open cast metal mining throughout the country, according to the precedent set in Decree 30477-MINAE when the government of Dr. Abel Pacheco de la Espriella made a commitment which we ask the new government which will take office this year to embrace, and therefore request that the people in the current electoral campaign aspire to lead the new government should embrace it. At the same time we feel it is imperative that there is a revision of the Mining Code, bringing it into line with new material requirements and the interests of the people of Costa Rica, and that this change reflects a focus on sustainable development.

God bless all people of good will who with an appreciative spirit recognise in Nature the gift from, and the reflection of, the Creator, and make an effort to look after the gifts received and preserve this marvellous present.

San José, 12th day of the Month of January, in the year of the Lord 2010.

      Monseñor Hugo Barrantes Ureña,
      Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San José

      Monseñor Ángel Sancasimiro Fernández,
      Diocesan Bishop of Alajuela

      Monseñor Guillermo Loría Garita,
      Diocesan Bishop of San Isidro de El General

      Monseñor Oswaldo Brenes Álvarez,
      Diocesan Bishop of Ciudad Quesada

      Monseñor Óscar Fernández Guillén,
      Diocesan Bishop of Puntarenas
      Secretary General

      Monseñor José Francisco Ulloa Rojas,
      Diocesan Bishop of Cartago

      Monseñor Vittorino Girardi Stellin,
      Diocesan Bishop of Tilarán

      Monseñor José Rafael Quirós Quirós,
      Diocesan Bishop of Limón

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