Around the Region

Costa Rican high court rules on major conservation cases

Costa Rica’s Supreme Court this month won applause from environmentalists after handing down mining and wetlands decisions being viewed here as important affirmation of the country’s preference for natural conservation over traditional development. Environmentalists say the decisions to cancel the nation’s first major gold mine and to force the government to protect all wetlands set important precedents. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the vice president for conservation policy at Conservation International in Costa Rica, says the rulings underscore how the Court, especially its constitutional chamber, counteracts erroneous or weak-willed environmental decisions by the government. “The Supreme Court has emphasized the environment and taken into account civil-society concerns about it even when we haven’t seen committed leadership from the executive branch,” he argues. In its most...

[ Log in to read more | Subscribe ]

Ecuador prepares way for large-scale mining

Nearly four years ago, Ecuador upset mining companies and delighted environmental groups by revoking more than 80% of existing mining concessions and declaring a moratorium on mining until legislation were passed to make mining contracts more favorable to the state. Now, the government of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa intends to make the country a world heavyweight in mining, initiating large-scale projects to tap its reserves of gold, silver and copper. The mining sector currently accounts for very little of Ecuador’s economy, but Mines Viceminister Federico Auquilla says that within a few years, mining will become one of the nation’s top 10 economic contributors. Five projects that the Correa government describes as strategic are expected to bring US$4 billion in initial investment over the...

[ Log in to read more | Subscribe ]

Water demands threaten rare Mexican ecosystem

It is at least as biodiverse as the Galápagos, home to microorganisms that existed hundreds of millions of years ago, and the focus of studies by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) on the earth’s origins and life on Mars. But the ancient oasis of geothermal springs, streams and pools in the Chihuahuan desert of North Mexico, known as Cuatrociénegas, in the northern deserts of Coahuila state, is rapidly dying, a victim of local agricultural practices that are sapping its underlying aquifer of water. One scientist who has studied Cuatrociénegas extensively says the 579-square-mile (1,500-sq-km) valley’s ecosystem will soon be dead if nothing is done to save it. Valeria Souza is determined that this not happen. An evolutionary ecologist...

[ Log in to read more | Subscribe ]