The Arenal Area Magazine

Mining opponents issue new broadside with big names


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of an open pit gold mine in northern Costa Rica have discounted an estimate that the country would have to pay $1.7 billion in compensation if it canceled the project.

The petition came to news outlets Monday from Preserve Planet, an organization in opposition to the Las Crucitas project.

The petition also bore the names of former president Abel Pacheco Espriella and former environmental minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez. Also on the petition were the names of former presidential candidates Ottón Solís and Rolando Araya, as well as the name of Mariano Figueres Olsen, son of the former president.

Also there were the names of 12 sitting legislative deputies and five former deputies.

Other signers included a host of names from some well-known and some-not-well-known environmental organizations.

The petition argued in technical details that the country would not be vulnerable for a monumental international arbitration award if President Laura Chinchilla rescinded a decree that Óscar Arias Sánchez signed that said the mining venture by Industrias Infinito was in the public interest.
Casa Presidencial released the financial estimate after experts in the Chinchilla government studied a Sala IV decision that said the mining project was legally constituted.

The president says that she opposes open pit mining in general and will not permit another one.

The petition argues that a decree by Pacheco was in force when the Arias government awarded the concession, so the concession is void. Pacheco issued a decree against open pit mining ventures as one of his first acts as president. But later the Sala IV constitutional court ruled the decree unconstitutional involving projects already in development.

The petition also said that Costa Rica will only receive a 3 percent cut of the 700,000 estimated ounces of gold that would be mined. That would be about $21 million at today’s prices.

The Arias government was counting on the project to bring jobs and economic revival to the northern zone. The project, operated by a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, has generated fierce opposition, in part because of the foreign ownership and because cyanide would be used to leach the gold from crushed rock.

The petition appears to set the stage for another court challenge. The company still is in a lower court over many of the same allegations on which the Sala IV issued a ruling.

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