Until a solution is reached, the miners say they will continue with the blockades on the Inter-American highway.
 - Pablo Segnini courtesy photo-

Published Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Miners' protest and block of the North
Inter-American route continue

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The miners of the Abangares District in Guanacaste Province ask the government to allow them to continue the legal extraction of gold.

Due to the blockades that protesters have made on the Inter-American route (between the provinces of San José and Guanacaste), the government sent representatives of the Presidency and the Vice Ministry of Natural Resources to the area, to design a plan for the legal commercialization of the gold.

Both government representatives Randall Otárola and Franklin Paniagua met on Monday with Pablo Segnini, President of the Miners and Miners Commission.

According to the government, since August a solution is being sought for the commercialization and exportation of the gold that is extracted in that area. The government proposes the following to resolve the miner's demands:

• A joint commission was created between the government and miners to find a solution to the problem of the prohibition of gold extraction.

• The Ministry of Economy is doing an analysis of the gold market in the area.

• The Ministry of the Environment is developing a project for the use of mercury and cyanide in mining. This project requires an investment of $500,000, the government said.

• The Ministry of Labor will make a plan to give traceability or follow-up to the commercialization of gold.

• The government is in the process of having a register of legal artisanal miners and companies that extract gold in the area.

• The Aid Institute and Abangares Municipality are in the process of reviewing the economic situation of the families that depend on mining, to provide them with a temporary subsidy. The total budget for the subsidy to be distributed among the families is approximately $67,205. And it is scheduled to be delivered in the months from September to December.

• Develop and implement a plan to allow miners to sell the gold to a company, legally. This way there is no gold exploitation.

• Implementing motion to the law that prohibits the exploitation of gold. The motion will extend the permits for gold exploitation for one year.

However, the protesters are requesting for quick solutions to continue with the exploitation of gold in the area. Until a solution is reached, the miners say they will continue with the blockades on the Inter-American highway.

The suspension of the exploitation of gold in mines located in Abangares is due to an investigation that develops in the Public Ministry on an alleged criminal organization dedicated to extracting gold from the area known as Crucitas in  Guanacaste Province and sending them to the United States.

In August, 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 less serious illegal activities.

The people arrested for this case were identified by the Prosecutor's Office as Costa Ricans and foreigners with the surnames: Rodríguez-Agüero, two people with surnames Agüero-Chaves, Vega-Sánchez, Santos-Soto, Lanzoni-Vindas, Lanzoni-Cerdas, Cerdas-Chacón, two people with López, Espinoza- Pérez, Quesada-Vega, Peña-Bill, Zúñiga-Villalobos, Salín-Méndez, López-Marín, Morún-Picado, Morún-Naranjo, Segnini-Sabat, Alfaro-Sánchez, Vásquez- Blanco, two people Centeno- Condega, Miranda-Muñoz, Cerdas-Chacón, and González-Mendoza.

These 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.

The raids were carried out in San Isidro, Santo Domingo, Guararí, Montelimar, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Escazú, San Sebastián, Barrio Escalante, Pocosol, Coopevega, San Ramón, Abangares and Puerto Jiménez, the prosecutor's report said.

Judicial agents arrested 26 people, including 21 men and 5 women as suspects of committing the crimes of illegal mining, environmental and money laundering.

Agents also 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.

However, that amount was calculated based on the values reported in the export customs documents. The Prosecutor is currently in the process of estimating the real amount paid by gold buyers.

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, as 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.


What should the authorities do to prevent illegal gold mining in protected areas?  
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