Legislature OKs ban on open-pit mining

The legislature passed on first reading Thursday a ban on open-pit mining in Costa Rica.

The proposal, which is likely to become law, would not affect the open-pit mine in development at Las Crucitas in Cutris de San Carlos, but it would ban any subsequent mines.

The measure also covers open-pit mining for other metals. The second and final vote probably will come Tuesday. President Laura Chinchilla already said she supports the ban and is likely to sign the bill.

The bill also addresses storage and importation of cyanide and mercury, both chemicals used to extract valuable metals from crushed rock. The bill also puts a 10-year limit on operations that currently use these chemicals and encourages them to chance to less environmentally unsound practices.

The bill also says that any existing mining concessions will not be renewed and orders government agencies to shelve any studies underway on mining and metals.

The bill also prohibits any kind of mining in protected areas but makes an exception for small-scale gold panners and hard rock miners in Golfito, the Osa and Abangares.

Rather than being new laws, the bill contains changes to the existing mining code.

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