SAN JOSE, Costa Rica Nov 9 Costa Rica's
congress voted on Tuesday to ban all new open-pit mining
projects, citing environmental concerns, without blocking the
development of the country's only major gold mine.
The small Central American country prides itself on jungle
wilderness that draws tourists and the lawmakers who proposed
the initiative say open-pit methods to dig for metals can cause
deforestation and destruction of wildlife habitat.
Less than one percent of Costa Rica's gross domestic
product comes from metals mining.
President Laura Chinchilla, who passed a moratorium on
mining shortly after taking office this past May, is likely to
sign the bill into law, said Jose Castro, head of mining at the
"Costa Rica is a country that has dedicated itself to
protecting the environment," Castro told Reuters. "We think it
is contradictory to promote the environment and continue to
pursue mining activity," he said.
The law will not affect the country's biggest gold mining
project Crucitas, owned by Canadian company Infinito Gold Ltd
IG.V, which already has an environmental permit to operate
although a court ruling has stalled the mine's development.
Crucitas has an indicated resource of 1.2 million ounces of
gold and was declared a project of national interest by
Chinchilla's predecessor Oscar Arias. The company says Crucitas
will not cause environmental damage.
The law passed on Tuesday is not retroactive and can only
be applied to future projects, said Claudio Monge, a legislator
whose Citizen's Action Party proposed the ban five years ago.
Some other Central American countries, like El Salvador,
Guatemala and Honduras have also put the breaks on new mining
(Reporting by Alex Leff; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)