The Costa Rican government declared Thursday a state of emergency in several districts in the north of the country after the contamination of drinking water by mercury, a product of illegal mining in a nearby area.
“Today I signed a declaration of emergency for the people of Crucitas that will allow us to use the resources of the emergency fund of the CNE (National Emergency Commission) and the necessary administrative procedures to fix the situation for these people,” said President Rodrigo Chaves at a press conference.
The situation in the area had been denounced by mayors and neighbors, who were temporarily provided with tanker trucks for the supply of drinking water while investigations were being carried out.
“We are going to go hard on this issue, there are drones on the way. Obviously the strategy has not worked for us for years. There are reports of incredible illegal actions that we are going to have to attack and due to the delicacy of this we are not going to go into details”, assured the President.
Since November 2022, an “increase in the level of contamination of drinking water systems and sources of such liquid as a result of the presence of mercury above acceptable levels” had been detected in several towns in the area, according to the emergency decree.
The places affected by the emergency declaration are Crucitas, El Roble, Chamorro, Chorreras, Llano Verde and El Jocote, all small towns in the northern interior of Costa Rica, close to the border with Nicaragua.
The northern zone is invaded by artisanal miners who have dedicated themselves to extracting gold using these chemicals, which, according to environmental organizations, have caused serious damage to the soil and rivers in the area.
Most of the illegal gold mining in Costa Rica takes place in the northern area of Crucitas, where the Canadian mining company Infinito Gold intended to develop a gold mining project, but it was blocked by the courts due to the environmental impact it would cause.
Illegal miners now extract metals from the deposit in an irregular manner and process them with mercury or cyanide, chemicals that are used to make products such as paper, fabrics and plastics, and are used as pesticides.
Human exposure to these products can cause serious health consequences and even death, according to scientific and medical sources.