Rumors have been circulating widely about recently proposed gold mining on the Osa Peninsula. In an attempt to shed light and a new perspective on the proposed gold exploration, CAVU conducted an overflight and took GPS-embedded aerial photographs of the region with Friends of the Osa on Friday, January 22.
The facts are as follows:
• In December 2009, Consultorías Turísticas del Pacífico, S.A., submitted a proposal to SETENA, the Costa Rican institution charged with reviewing and approving Environmental Impact Statements, requesting approval to begin preliminary exploration for precious metals along the Rio Rincón. The statement is currently under review by SETENA.
• The proposed exploration project is slated for the Cantón of Golfito, on the Osa Peninsula, along the Rio Rincón. The river has its headwaters in Corcovado National Park, and its mouth in the town of Rincón, along the Golfo Dulce. (EIA, pg. 5)
• The project area falls between Corcovado and the Golfo Dulce, and is 16 square kilometers, including land abutting the river and the higher slopes above it. (EIA, pg. 5)
• Consultorias Turisticas del Pacifico has expressly stated that, during this initial exploration stage, it will not cut new roads, or any trees, in the project area. Access to the site to be explored will be along a public gravel road which extends southeast up the Rio Rincón valley. (EIA, Anexo #1)
• Sustained high gold prices above $1000/ounce have encouraged speculation and exploration throughout Latin America – and now, on the Osa Peninsula, a region historically rich in fluvial gold. (Bloomberg, 11/09)
• The Osa Peninsula is among the richest areas on Earth in terms of biodiversity, and among the regions of highest species endemicism in Costa Rica. Tourism is the largest industry on the Peninsula – and much of it is driven by largely intact natural resources and national parks.
• A wide array of environmental organizations and concerned citizens and scientists have spoken out against the proposed exploration – effectively bringing the issue to the public eye. Their principal concerns include:
– Precedence: The Osa Peninsula has a long, tumultuous history of often destructive gold-mining. If, during the exploration phase, gold is discovered in quantity, it should be assumed that extraction will follow. What precedent does this set for the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica, a region and a country largely dependent on eco-tourism and healthy natural resources?
– Sedimentation/Contamination: While the mine company has not yet proposed extraction, or indicated what methods might be used, the typical methods of extraction of gold via cyanide or mercury have historically proven very damaging to waterways.
– Golfo Dulce: The gulf is among the most fragile, and most unique, of marine natural resources on Earth. Because water circulates slowly through the Gulf, sediments from gold extraction along the Rio Rincón could potentially smother already ailing coral reefs in the inner Gulf, affecting marine habitat and fisheries.
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