Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 23:09:48 -0600 (CST)
`Costa Rica has been invaded by mining companies'
From Green Left Weekly, 1 December 1998
GABRIEL RIVAS DUCCA, from Costa Rica, has been supporting local communities in their fight against open-cut mining. He was in Australia to participate in conferences hosted by Friends of the Earth. Ducca spoke to Green Left Weekly's TRISH CORCORAN on Community Radio 3CR.
Ducca welcomed the opportunity provided by Friends of the Earth to visit Australia and gain an insight into "the way the Aboriginal communities are treated, or more precisely, mistreated. It's been very important to meet many anti-mining campaigners."
In Costa Rica, the campaign against mining "is a very hot issue", he said. "As in many countries in the Third World, Costa Rica has been invaded by mining companies, many from Canada, who are interested in opening open-pit gold mines using cyanide.
"With indigenous communities, peasants, students and environmentalists, we have formed a very wide coalition against mining. It has been successful in increasing awareness amongst the communities, and in resisting the mining companies."
Ducca said that the Costa Rican movement succeeded in stopping the Placer Dome corporation of Canada, which also has a stake in the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea, entering Costa Rica.
"Our success was to work closely with local communities. Together with them, we established very clearly what kind of development they wanted, what kind of sustainable society, according to the bio-regional and cultural particularities of our region.
"So we had a very clear picture of the region and country that we wanted, and this made it easier to defeat the unsustainable projects and proposals coming from this multinational company", Ducca explained.
"Costa Rica has a long tradition in anti-mining campaigns. In the 1970s, there were very important demonstrations and organisations against the aluminium company, Alcoa.
"In the middle of the 1980s, a campaign was led by indigenous communities against a Canadian copper mining company. There have also been other local campaigns against smaller open-pit gold mines in the central Pacific area. We have seen the tremendous damage done by that kind of mining activity in our country."
Ducca said there are activities which are unsustainable by definition, such as uranium mining and gold mining using cyanide. These activities should simply not exist: "93% of the gold is used only for luxury items, for jewellery for instance, and the ecological and social damage is enormous".
Indigenous rights are closely linked with mining issues in Costa Rica, Ducca added. "There is tremendous pressure from multinational companies on the indigenous communities to be allowed access to the minerals. The indigenous communities are resisting together with many other sections of society.
"For the indigenous community, it is not only the question of minerals but the question of forests that affect their lives. Multinational corporations building huge hydro-electric dams and similar kinds of projects have an impact on the indigenous communities."