After distancing her government from the stalled and controversial Crucitas open-pit gold mine in Costa Rica’s northern zone near the Nicaraguan border, President Laura Chinchilla and her executive team seem to be more open than ever to hearing the point of view of the project’s opponents.
Casa Presidencial spokesman have repeatedly told The Tico Times that the mine was signed into law in a previous government and that Chinchilla would not revisit the decision.
Now, perhaps driven by intensified opposition to the mine and recent polls that indicate that more than 80 percent of Costa Ricans oppose the project, her government has said it’s willing to “study” and “analyze” the documents and resolutions that had granted approval to the mine.
Construction on the mine project began in early 2008 but halted within months over legal and environmental concerns.
Last week, before leaving on a weeklong, 170 kilometer march from San José to Crucitas, mine opponents handed Laura Chinchilla a written request to revoke the presidential decree signed by her predecessor, Oscar Arias, which authorized the Crucitas project to move ahead. Two days after the marchers departed, Chinchilla said in a press conference she would “analyze” the executive decree.
On Monday afternoon, when protesters returned from Crucitas, Vice President Alfio Piva issued a formal response to the marchers’ request.
“The government will proceed to thoroughly study the complete text of the resolution of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court and it will act according to its duties,” he said.
That text is more than 300 pages.
But Piva stopped short of saying the government will fully support mine opponents and he ultimately left the project’s future in the hands of the Administrative Appeals Court, where the legalities of the public interest decree are presently being examined.
“We will absolutely respect the resolutions of our tribunals … and considering that the issue remains open in the courts, it will not be until the results of this process are known that the future of the project will be clear,” Piva said.
Environmentalists who oppose the mine were disappointed with the government’s response.
“This news was not received with much satisfaction on the part of the activists who walked 170 kilometers,” said Luis Diego Marín, president of Preserve Planet, an environmental group. “We will continue fighting intensely until we successfully bury, forever, open-pit gold mining in Costa Rica.”