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This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.

In a bold and precedent-setting move, Costa Rica has prohibited all future open-pit metal mining. Environmentalists are celebrating the passage of the new law, approved unanimously by the Costa Rican Congress, which establishes Costa Rica as a country that is "free from open-pit metal mining."

Costa Rica is the first country in the Americas to recognize the severity of the environmental and economic harms caused by open-pit mining, and the first to say no to future open pit mines. 

Earthjustice and its partners are thrilled with this development, as we have been working for years to highlight the threats posed by mining in Costa Rica. Helping communities fighting the Bellavista and Crucitas mines, we have documented the failure of the government to comply with national and international laws for environmental protections, the inadequacy of government efforts to control mining impacts, and the need for much stricter regulation. The new law goes one step further and simply says no to all new open-pit mine projects.

Polls show that 90 percent of Costa Ricans oppose open-pit mining, and the Costa Rican Congress has taken a laudable step by standing up against a powerful industry. The legislators and all the environmental and progressive groups in Costa Rica that worked to make the new law reality deserve our congratulations and thanks!

Unfortunately, this victory won't prevent all the destruction from mining in Costa Rica. The nation must still address the aftermath of the Bellavista mine, a project which was shut down when the mine collapsed after only two years of operation.

Although that incident made clear that the combination of open-pit mining, unstable soils and tropical rainfall is a recipe for disaster, a concession for a similar mine near the Nicaraguan border had already been issued. That proposed mine — Crucitas — is being challenged in court, but may still be allowed to open as the law passed today only applies to new projects. This could mean severe environmental impacts in the bi-national San Juan River region.

Meanwhile, with metal prices remaining near record highs, a veritable gold rush continues in most nations of our hemisphere. The Colosa mine in Colombia (planned to be the hemisphere's largest), the Paredones Amarillos mine in Baja California, and the Petaquilla mine in Panama are only some of the many projects that Earthjustice is working on with our colleagues in AIDA and other law groups to stem the impacts of metal mining.

Learn more about some of the mining projects we are working on in Latin America.