A small group of environmentalists on July 12 began their 170-kilometer march from the presidential palace in San Jose to Costa Rica´s only open-pit gold mine to pressure the government to close the project.
While pressure on President Laura Chinchilla´s new government has mounted in recent months to close the Crucitas gold mine near the northern border with Nicaragua, as environmentalists and human rights activists warn that it will cause irreversable damage to the soil, rivers and massive deforestation, only 15 set out to march to the mine. But they are already seeing results.
A day later, presidential spokesman Marco Vargas told a press conference that Chinchilla´s government is open to reviewing the decree issued by her predecessor and mentor, the ex-President Oscar Arias (1986-90 and 2006-2010), that lifted a moratorium on open-pit mining.
Shortly after taking office in early May Chinchilla, who served as Arias´ vice president and justice minister, issued a ban on all new open-pit mining, but had repeatedly said the Crucitas gold mine, a property of Canada´s Infinito Gold, could not be touched since a previous government had already granted it permits to start work.
Her new decree had generated renewed hope in stopping the project, which has been stalled for around two years, but a reform of the mining law, an overturning of Arias´ decree, or a court decision are the only ways to stop the project, as environmentalists, university groups, local governments and citizens groups filed a series of complaints in Costa Rican courts. A final ruling on the project is pending.
Under the slogan “Marching for Life: Crucitas free of Cyanide,” protesters will distribute information to citizens along their path on the dangers of the mine, in hopes that they will join their campaign against the project.
“The citizenry has a essential protagonism for struggles of justice to achieve resounding results in civil society and in governments,” said Luis Diego Marín, coordinator of local environmental group Preserve Planet, one of the organizers of the anti-Crucitas campaign. “Never in the history of humanity have social victories been achieved without the presence of the citizenry. This march to the site where they´re trying to build a destructive project is a living example of this great social power.”
Chinchilla has said that gold mining is not a priority industry for Costa Rica, which has very little metallic mineral resources. Environmentalists argue that the dangers the industry poses for the nation far outweigh potential benefits.