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Costa Rica seizes cyanide and mercury in operations against illegal mining

December 10, 2019

Costa Rican authorities confiscated large shipments of cyanide and mercury, two highly toxic chemicals, in a series of operations against illegal mining in the north of the country, the government said Monday.

The chemicals, used to extract gold, were seized in operations against illegal mining in the town of Cutris de San Carlos.

The seizure includes 2,400 kilos of cyanide “that were illegally introduced from Nicaragua and were to be used for gold processing,” the Public Security Ministry (MSP) said in a statement.

“The authorities also seized 1,405 grams of mercury, both highly toxic products,” it added.

The operations focused on a farm in northern Costa Rica that the government had allocated in 2008 as concession to Canada’s Infinito Gold. The government later ordered a stop to the project after verifying that it would have serious environmental consequences.

However, the land was invaded by artisanal miners who have dedicated themselves to extracting gold with the use of chemicals that, according to environmental organizations, have caused serious damage to the soil and rivers in the area.

According to the Ministry of Security, police carry out land patrols and road checks to verify the possible entry of illegal miners who could exploit the gold in the area.

The organizar says that this year, police have arrested 186 people for illegal mining and 963 foreigners, mostly Nicaraguans, who were handed over to Migration Police for illegally entering the country hoping to work in gold mining.

In addition, “a large number of tools and materials used to practice illegal mining have been destroyed, as well as tunnels and champas, or makeshift camps with plastics,” the ministry said.

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