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Temple University
SOC 0862
Eileen Wood

Ravi Desai Sociology 0862: Development and Globalization Final Project 12/12/11 To Mine or Not to Mine The Bribri people, the largest indigenous ethnicity in Costa Rica, have maintained an indigenous language and culture in the small village of Di Tsi, in southeastern Costa Rica on an indigenous reservation called Talamanca. They identify themselves as being self-sufficient and pride themselves on the isolation from the rest of the nation. ACanadian mining company has meanwhile proposed to establish a center for mining gold and copper in the Di Tsi region and to even address some of the several problems that the indigenous Bribri people encounter. The Bribri people encounter several hardships because of their isolation from the outside world. Talamanca is regarded as the poorest county in the country of Costa Rica, in terms of per capita income. This is because most men and women grow crops and raise livestock to feed their families. They also engage in a bartering system with their neighbors to obtain goods and services they cannot afford with cash. These activities allow the Bribri people to use a non- currency based economy for obtaining certain goods and services. A non-currency based economy enables the Bribri people to live in a tight-knit community. Due to their isolation, many villages are only accessible by foot or by a motorized canoe, since there are no roads built for cars or busses. Consequently, the effect of not having roads causes many migrant workers to encounter extensive traveling between the plantation and their families. Also, local children have to leave at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning to obtain an education, since there is not an adequate mode of transportation, causing the children to have to walk or canoe lengthily to get to the 1 schools, since there is no high school in Talamanca. This traveling hardship causes majority of the local children to drop out. Without proper roads, several illness and diseases cannot be properly treated and prevented, like appendicitis, since proper roads could provide a simplified form of transportation for the sick to the health clinic in the county’s capital, reducing the golden hour. Also, in the villages there is no electricity and running water, since the indigenous reservations of Talamanca have never modernized to use the facilities that are provided through advances in technology. These are some of the problems that the Bribri people encounter; while many migrant workers have little land, which allows them to barely support their families. Meanwhile, the Canadian mining company has gained the rights to gold and copper ore in Talamanca from the Costa Rican government. However the Bribri people have exclusive ownership to the land within the reservation, and without the village’s support for mining national and international public opinion can pressure the Costa Rican government to rescind mining rights. The Canadian mining company would provide over three hundred wage paying jobs to the Bribri people which would raise the county’s per capita income. Also, by having a mining base in the county, it would help the local Bribri owners of three small general stores. The Canadian corporation would provide a health clinic in the village as well as provide improvements to the larger clinic located in the county capital. They would build a road which would provide transportation within the Di Tsi and access to the rest of Costa Rica, which can be accessed by motorized road vehicles. The company would build a high school, which would mean that the children would not have to leave at 4:30 or 5:00 to go to school. Additionally, the mining company would bring modernization to the Bribri people and to the reservation of Talamanca. 2 The Bribri people have enjoyed their indigenous lifestyle and unique cultural where they are isolated from the rest of Costa Rica. Several different groups feel that allowing the mining company to establish a base in Di Tsi would conflict with the culture and indigenous lifestyle of Bribri. One of the main conflicts with allowing the Canadian mining company to mine for gold and copper would destroy Talamanca’s natural resources and natural landscape. Before the mining company can begin to mine the company must introduce a leaching process that would release mercury, a heavy metal, into the water, which would threaten the water that the Bribri people use for drinking, washing, bathing, and cooking. The fish and animals which provide food for them would be pushed further downstream, due to contamination of mercury, making life even harder for those that require wild game to feed their families. Also, the unique medical techniques that are derived from the unique vegetation would be threatened due to mercury, which would contaminate the soil. Land would also have to be redistributed so the Canadian mining company can set up their equipment and establish the necessary machinery causing the destruction of the forest and vegetation. Mining does not only affect the soil and water, but would also affect the Bribri’s indigenous culture. The Bribri people currently have a unique lifestyle where being isolated from the rest of Costa Rica allows them to not have to rely on the outside world. By allowing the Canadian mining company into Di Tsi, the Bribri people would turn them from being producers to consumers, where they would only be able to eat through paychecks signed by the Canadian mining company. Additionally, by having a mining base would bring in several outsiders that would violate the norms that are valued by the community. For example, a pervious oil exploration project on the reservation brought an increase in alcohol consumption, violence, poverty, and a sex trade that develops near the company. Mining would symbolize a 3 loss of autonomy, dependence on the outside world, and a lack of respect for the Bribri traditions. By allowing an establishment for the Canadian mining company would also cause conflicts within the household. Talamancan families currently consist of two farmers; both the husband and the wife of a household grow plantain or bananas to sell. Since mining would only create jobs for the men, the women would not benefit from mining. In the 1980s when the oil exploration occurred, the main source of the household income came from the wage-earning men, while the women’s income usefulness diminishes. The men would also use the money to purchase radios, beer, and other items instead of using their earnings to support the family, causing the women and children to suffer in the household. Therefore, the arrival of the mining company would further damper the influence of Bribri culture in the community decision making and in everyday life. Children would also be further tempted to forget the Bribri traditions and language. Sibu, the divine creator of the Bribri people, had declared some things for the blancos and other things for the Bribri. The Bribri people are not supposed to seek riches and fame, which was meant for the blancos, the Bribri are meant to ensure the continuation of the land, water, and the animals that live there. By allowing the mining company into Di Tsi would cause the contamination of the land, water and push the animals further into the forests. The Bribri people have decided to reject the mining proposal since there are more negatives than positive factors for the Canadian mining company. For mining there is a limit to how much they can extract from the ground, once all raw minerals are extracted the Canadian mining company would leave Di Tsi in a range of turmoil while the company would move on to 4 locate other resources. Even with the advancements the Canadian mining company would offer, there would be more harms of the mercury contamination and destruction of the natural environment. The Canadian mining company does not have any morals; they are offering the amendments to Di Tsi, so the Bribri people would feel more inclined towards their proposal not towards their future. Mercury poisoning causes symptoms that include itching, burning, pain skin discoloration, swelling, shedding of the skin, profuse sweating, faster-than-normal heart rate, increased salivation and high blood pressure. Since mercury is a heavy metal, mercury cannot be simply extracted out of the water through heating due to its high boiling point and physical properties. The extraction of mercury from the water would require various filtration devices which are expensive and require a lot of energy, which cannot be supplied t
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