Environmental group cheers rejection of gold mine project

Environmentalists expressed their pleasure Wednesday after the nation’s environmental watchdog refused a request to allow the Bellavista gold mine to reopen.

This was the mine in western Costa Rica where much of the infrastructure collapsed because of heavy rains.

The organization Ni Una Sola Mina also noted Wednesday that a supposedly unbreakable membrane also ruptured during the collapse. The membrane was supposed to protect the soil from chemicals used to extract gold from crushed rock.

The mining site is adjacent to the Río Ciruelas that flows into the Gulf of Nicoya.

The Canadian firm, B2Gold and Metales Procesados M.R.W. S.A., seek to pick up from the previous owner. The firms can appeal the decision by the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental.

Specifically the Secretaria Tecnica rejected the environmental viability of the project and ordered the case to be archived.
The same agency had approved the mine in 2002. Ni Una Sola Mina said that the collapse of the infrastructure showed that the original environmental studies were flawed. When the ground began to move, the mine operator halted the use of chemicals to extract the gold and flushed the area with water. That prevented any seepage into the adjacent lands.

The reborn Bellavista mine is in Montes de Oro near the town of Miramar east of Puntarenas. Mining operations there started in April 2005, and the operator Glencairn Gold Corp. ended them in August 2007 due to the ground movement. The landslide happened the next October. Gold has soared in value since the closing.

The Bellavista property has proven and probable reserves of 314,000 ounces, and measured and indicated resources of 421,000 ounces, according to the firms involved. An ounce of gold sold Wednesday for $1,663. so the probable reserves are worth at least $520 million.

Since the Bellevista mine was closed, the legislature passed a law forbidding open pit mines in Costa Rica and restricting other types of gold mining. The Glencairn concession at Bellavista predates that law.

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