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According to the judicial agents between 2018 and 2020, the suspects of illegally extracting gold exported approximately 2,500 kilos
of gold valued at $60 million to the United States. - A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo-



Published Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Abangares miners authorized
to exploit gold

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As of November, the export of gold will be authorized to miners who are members of the Cantonal Union of the Development Association of Abangares Canton, UNCADA, located in Guanacaste Province.

According to Franklin Corella, Director of the National Development Association, since the signing of agreements between illegal miners and the Cantonal Union the strategy for the exploitation and marketing of the gold produced in Abangares was developed.

The public institutions that have participated in the development of the exploitation and marketing strategy are the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, among others, Corella said.

The National Bank carried out the process of opening bank accounts to the miners for the receipt of payments for the sale of gold. As well as the Ministry of Finance carried out the procedures for exoneration of taxes for exploitation and sale of gold.

According to the Ministry of Labor, procedures are being carried out to access a fund of approximately $199,342, from the National Micro Enterprise Support Program, to purchase gold from miners in situation poverty and for those who also are members of the union.

Also, the National Council for Community Development is in the process of approving approximately $215,954 for the 2021 construction of a building for the trade of products produced in Abangares.

In September, leaders of the miners in the Abangares District in Guanacaste Province reached an understanding with the government to lift the blockades on the streets and on the North Inter-American route between San José and Guanacaste.

The agreement includes mainly the approval to legalize the miners activities in the area.

In August, there was an order to suspend the exploitation of gold in mines located in Abangares. This was in response to an investigation by the Public Ministry of an alleged criminal organization dedicated to extracting gold from the area known as Crucitas in Guanacaste Province and sending it to the United States.

The Prosecutor Office of Legitimation of Capitals confirmed that it requested pre-trial measures to 14 of the 26 suspects of illegally extracting gold and sending shipments to the United States.

According to the Prosecutor, 12 people were arrested and released without precautionary measures or pre-trial, because they are linked to illegal mining, environmental and money laundering.

The suspects' arrest took place when the Judicial Investigation Organization, OIJ, agents made 32 raids at the homes and workplaces of the suspects, such as farms, companies, places where gold was extracted, and places where the material was processed.

Agents seized $134,393 in cash, ten vehicles, explosives, gold, drugs, firearms and important documentation for the investigation.

According to the judicial agents between 2018 and 2020, the suspects exported approximately 2,500 kilos of gold valued at $60 million to the United States.

The alleged illegal miners extracted gold from unauthorized mines that were open in the areas of Crucitas District in Alajuela Province, Abangares District in Guanacaste Province, and Corcovado National Park in Puntarenas Province, the prosecutor said.

The valuable mineral extracted was then handed over to people who were engaged in gold processing in clandestine places in Guanacaste Province. There, the gold was turned into bullion or a flat bar, then the gold was exported to the United States. Other shipments were illegally transferred to Nicaragua.

The roles identified to the suspect's range from managing farms in Crucitas, obtaining the gold in the form of sediments, processing the gold, selling or storing gold in houses, making accounting and financial reports, among many others.

A group of suspects was in charge of financing the purchases of that material in exchange for some patrimonial benefit and provided false evidence as cattle sales. Another group of suspects was in charge of justifying in the banks the amounts of money they received as a result of money laundering.

Another group of suspects was in charge of processing gold and exporting the mineral through companies exporting directly from the Juan Santamaría International Airport. The export was made under the false justification that it was scrap gold, the prosecutor said.

Due to the closure of borders at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, when it was one of the measures to mitigate the pandemic, the suspects used other companies dedicated to the transport of merchandise abroad, to ensure the continuity of the export of gold and money laundering, the prosecutor said.

Another group of suspects gave financial and accounting advice. They used false invoices to give a legal appearance of the money obtained with the export of the gold.

An employee of the Ministry of Finance is one of the suspects, who is allegedly in charge of advising other suspects on how to hide the illegal business.

Among other discoveries by investigators, they found that the chemical substances used for extracting the gold, such as mercury and cyanide, were sent to the Crucitas area from San José, by another group of suspects.

Are you for or against the exploitation of gold in Costa Rica? 
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