Costa Rica: Open Air mine ecological? Bloggers think not.

concentric circles on a cut off tree stump
woods cut deforestation cut chopped environment by hypertypo

Costa Rican bloggers have raised their voices in alarm at the government's decision to approve a project to cut down acres of forest for an open air gold mine near the border with Nicaragua. Nobel Peace Prize president Oscar Arias, who only last year let the world know about the Peace with Nature campaign launched to protect Costa Rica's biodiversity, now insists that the open air mine will benefit the country by creating job opportunities, and insisting that the Canadian firm which will operate the mine has successfully done mining in other countries. Ecologists, however, insist that the deforestation that will necessarily take place at the site, and the chemical processes to deplete the soil of the yellow metal will be catastrophic for the ecosystem, particularly because the site is very close to major river San Juan.

Jaguar del Platanar, who lives in San Carlos near the Crucitas site where the mine will operate, writes:

Amelia Rueda entrevistó hoy a Arias sobre el tema Crucitas. Él manifesta que tomó la decisión de firmar el decreto porque todo mundo le habla bien del proyecto: el alcalde de San Carlos, el diputado Salvador Quirós, Roberto Dobles, los abogados del MINAE. SINAC, SETENA y Geología y Minas. Además porque “la mayoría de San Carlos quiere” que se dé el proyecto por el compromiso de hacer caminos, reponer los árboles y generar empleo (otra vez léase inversión, pero inversión que le quita el peso de inversión pública en esa zona) . Sobra decir que la afirmación de que la mayoría de San Carlos quiere la minería, es tan cierta como decir que el cianuro es una sustancia totalmente inofensiva para el ambiente .

Amelia Rueda [Costa Rican journalist] interviewed Arias today regarding the Crucitas issue. He states that he took the decision to sign the decree because “everyone” speaks positively about the project: the San Carlos Major, Deputy Salvador Quirós, Roberto Dobles, the MINAE lawyers [Ministry of Environment and Energy], SINAC, SETENA and Geology and Mines. Also because “most of San Carlos wants” this project to go forward because there is a commitment to create roads, replant trees and generate jobs (once again, read here inversion, but this inversion takes away the weight from public inversion in this area). It is a given that the affirmation that most of San Carlos wants the mine is as true as saying that cyanide is a completely harmless substance for the environment.

Fuera de Crucitas is a blog created solely to protest against mining in the Crucitas area. They are informing the general population about further developments regarding the mines, and are also collecting signatures against the gold mine and protesting the extensive deforestation that took place during the three days after the decree passed. On Monday, the Energy and Environment Ministry put a halt on the project while the situation is analyzed:

Creemos que las firmas de apoyo representan el sentir de la población respecto a los acontecimientos de los últimos días, en los que se talaron muchos árboles en Crucitas de Cutris, tras un decreto que permitió la tala, incluso de especies vedadas, como el caso del almendro amarillo.

We believe that the signatures represent the feeling of the population regarding the last few days’ developments, in which many trees where chopped down in Crucitas de Cutris, after a decree that admitted the cutting down, even of forbidden species, such as the Yellow Almond Tree.

Journalist Cristian Cambronero of Fusil de Chispas writes a thorough post on the back story and contradictions the President has made evident in “Peace with Nature, another tall tale”:

Meter el cuento. En julio de 2007, el Gobierno del presidente Arias lanzó “Paz con la naturaleza”, un ambicioso programa, ejecutado por un equipo de 175 profesionales, destinado a hacer de Costa Rica “un líder mundial de la conservación”. La iniciativa se convirtió de inmediato en uno de los trapitos de dominguear del Presidente, y fue celebrada por la prensa. Poco más de un año después, la semana pasada, el mismo presidente firmó un decreto que declaró de “interés público y conveniencia nacional” la tala de 262 hectáreas de bosque en Las Crucitas de Cutris, San Carlos, cerca la frontera con Nicaragua. La tala y el decreto, también dan luz verde a la operación de la “eco-mina” Las Crucitas, que no es más que una mina a cielo abierto para “lavar” (lixiviación) el suelo con cianuro tóxico en busca de oro. Terrorismo ecológico.

Setting us up. In July 2007, President Arias’ government presented “Peace with Nature”, an ambitious program to be executed by a team of 175 professionals, destined to make of Costa Rica “a world leader in conservation.” The innitiative immediately became one of the pet projects of the president to be shown around, and it was celebrated by the press. A little more than a year later, last week, the same President signed a decree which declared “of public interest and national convenience” the cutting down of 647.5 acres of forest at the Crucitas de Cutris, San Carlos, near the border with Nicaragua. The deforestation and the decree, also give a green light to the “ecological mine” operation in Las Crucitas, which is nothing but an open air mine to wash (leaching) the ground with toxic cyanide in the search for gold. Ecological terrorism.

Cristian also points us over to a couple of YouTube videos in Spanish, uploaded by Sancarlena77, where the devastating effects of open air mines are shown. Part 1 and Part 2.

On twitter, users have been passing along links to TV video showing the extense of the deforestation, as well as another video where President Arias’ statements a year ago are juxtaposed to the current situation.

The University of Costa Rica Channel 15's show EraVerde also produced a 10 minute video explaining the Crucitas case back in August of this year, comparing it to the negative record the government has had in controlling open air gold mines, particularly the one in Miramar, where cyanide poisoning in the water and landslides where only some of the negative impact the project had (the video starts at 1 minute mark):


  • Hi!

    We have many environmental problems with this project. It has the approval of the government but in a contradiction because they are passing over laws which protect trees as almendro (dipteryx panamensis), the house for green macaws (ara ambigua). The last weekend many of this almendro trees was cutted down and then the Supreme Court decided to stop the activity.


  • This is especially bad as oxygen is a key component in the formation of acid mine drainage.

  • Palawan is the municipality of El Nido, where Bacuit Bay is located. This body of water is a haven for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts as the bay is a sanctuary for different marine life such as manta rays, sharks, and sea turtles. Palawan is also home to the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary and the Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area.

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