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Miners versus writers

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It was a busy 72 hours for miners and their opponents.

The decision last Thursday by Costa Rica’s Supreme Court to prohibit Toronto-based Infiito Gold from developing the Crucitas gold mine is part of a trend, whose repercussions run from Central America through Mexico and Peru, all the way to London.

On the same day as the Crucitas judgment, 150 writers, including Nobel literature laureates Tomas Transtromer of Sweden and Jean-Marie Le Clezio of France, along with Canada’s Margaret Atwood, urged Mexican President Felipe Calderón to cancel a concession, owned by Canada’s First Majestic Silver.

The project would excavate land, which – according to legends of the native Huichol people - is the birthplace of the sun.

Two days earlier, Colorado-based Newmont Mining suspended a $4.8 billion gold project in Peru, in the face of protests from nearby communities, who claim the mine would pollute their drinking water.

One day after Newmont’s decision, Occupy London activists stormed the headquarters of Anglo-Swiss mining giant Xstrata, protesting the “fat cat” salary – the equivalent of around $25 million – of the company’s CEO.

In Central America, the Costa Rican decision likely means that no future mining project can proceed.
El Salvador suspended all mining activity two years ago.

Meanwhile, mines continue to operate in the rest of the region.

Miners and their supporters argue that the industry helps make poor countries richer.

On the other hand, opponents insist that mining creates a high likelihood of environmental damage, and that any wealth it produces tends to end up in the hands of corrupt local leaders.

A lively week indeed.