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COSTA RICA / NICARAGUA
Risk of environmental damage
Latinamerica Press
7/17/2008
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Protesters oppose open-pit gold mining on countries’ border river.

The Nicaraguan government announced in mid-July that it would bring a case against the Costa Rican government before the Central American Court of Justice for approving the operation of an open-pit gold mine on the banks of San Juan River, which divides the two countries.

Nicaraguan authorities say the Costa Rican government’s approval in April of the Las Crucitas gold mine, owned by Canadian company Vanessa Ventures, violates international environmental protection agreements since gold mining can cause irreversible damage to the San Juan River.

The Las Crucitas gold mine is expected to extract 700,000 ounces of gold over the next 10 years. The mine is in the Cutris district, 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the San Juan River, where the El Castillo-San Juan-La Selva biological corridor is located, as well as other important nature reserves such as the San Juan River and Agua y Paz biosphere reserves in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, respectively.

On June 24, during the bilateral forum “Cross-Border Mining and Natural Resources,” forum held in the Nicaraguan department of Rio San Juan, protesters organized a sit-in on the riverbanks to protest against the project.

Participants in the forum, including Nicaraguan government and military officials and nongovernmental organizations, signed a declaration asserting that the San Juan River Basin has been continually deforested in Costa Rica with “intensive pesticide use.”

The declaration added that Costa Rican officials have not adequately prevented the drying of wetlands and other water bodies.

“Now they want to mine externally, which will irreversibly affect the quality of our water sources, ecosystems and biological diversity,” said the declaration.

Nicaraguan opponents also warn that the project will affect “tourism potential, landscape quality, river navigation and health of the population near the San Juan River due to sedimentation and contamination.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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