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Monday, March 13, 2023

Illegal Gold Mines Force Costa Rica to Declare Water Emergency

The Municipal Council of San Carlos declared an emergency in the districts of Cutris and Pocosol with effect from Tuesday, February 21, due to contamination found in the water of six Northern border communities. The cause of water getting contaminated with mercury is the illegal extraction of gold in Crucitas.

Four aqueducts and all artisanal wells from Chamorro, Chorrerras, Crucitas, El Roble de Cutris, Llano Verde, and El Jocote de Pocosol will be closed, and over 1500 people will be affected.

This move comes after the Ministry of Health revealed on February 15 that the samples collected in November 2022 showed the presence of mercury in water for human consumption, with levels much above the international standards. Mercury is believed to severely affect the central nervous system.

The councilors of the Municipality of San Carlos made this decision of emergency unanimously after a session was held on Monday, February 20, where the Ministry of Health, the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA), and the affected residents of the communities expressed their concern.

Dr. Luis Diego Ugalde, head of the Regional Unit of the Ministry of Health, warned “In Chorreras, we have frankly very worrying results because all the samples are positive and with levels that are up to eleven times higher than what the international norm dictates. What we have is a very worrying situation.”

Dr. Ugalde assured that a meeting would be held on March 3 and concrete plans to contain the problem would be formed.

Rodrigo Chaves, President of Costa Rica, confirmed on February 21 at the press conference that even the Central Government has reports of contamination of water with cyanide.

The declaration of emergency is a message to the Central Government to prepare for the transfer of resources toward the investment in the bad roads of Cutris and Pocosol and to strengthen the distribution of water in tanks and trucks in the six affected border towns of Nicaragua.

Access to clean water is a basic human right and the authorities should do everything in their power to grant the residents this basic human right.

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