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Gold Mining History


Today, the Osa Peninsula is recognized worldwide for its extensive biodiversity, however, not so long ago, the landscape was not known for its lush vegetation, but for a completely different color: gold.


For years, since the early 1500s, there has been much speculation that the Caribbean and Costa Rica in particular were teeming with gold and other riches. In 1502, Christopher Columbus became the first European to cross the Atlantic on his fourth and final voyage, settling in what is now considered the Limón region on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. During his explorations, Columbus was greatly impressed by the ornate gold jewelry worn by the indigenous people who inhabited the area. It was this discovery, in addition to the dense natural landscape, that many historians believe led Columbus to coin the country's name Costa Rica, or "Costa Rica" as it translates into English.


However, despite early speculation about the potential riches to be discovered in this previously unknown territory, gold was not discovered in Costa Rica until more than 300 years after the arrival of the Spanish in the region. Unlike other countries in Central and South America, such as Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru, which were exploited as suppliers of precious metals during this colonial period, Costa Rica supported its economy primarily through agriculture. Large-scale gold mining did not begin until the 1820s, though it soon declined shortly after in the 1840s. It was not until the 1930s, when gold was discovered on the Osa Peninsula, that the industry was revived. later, causing the gold rush to sweep the country once again.

For many years, Osa was considered "the unwanted place", due to its intense virgin landscape and lack of inhabitants. However, with the discovery of gold in the region, a great migration to the Peninsula took place, as many fortune seekers flocked to the area hoping to find great gold mining. Many of those who migrated to the area were maverick refugees from other Caribbean nations seeking refuge from the tyrannical rule of their national governments along with former banana plantation workers from the Limón region seeking work following the closure of many of the United States plantations. Fruit Company. during this time.


The Peninsula was one of the largest gold-producing regions in Costa Rica until the late 1980s and was known for producing exceptionally high-grade natural gold with purity greater than 21 carats, considered very high for gold deposits. natural and some of the purists found throughout Central America. As a result, during this “gold rush period”, the region experienced a huge economic boom fueled by artisanal gold prospecting. However, unlike other gold mining areas in Costa Rica, the Osa was unique in that gold was not only abundant in the mountainous regions, but also accumulated on riverbanks throughout the peninsula in the form of sedimentary. Sedimentary gold, unlike larger gold nuggets, can be mined in an artisanal process known as gold panning, a laborious method that uses a sieve or gold pan to separate the precious metal from sand and gravel. . This artisanal form of mining was the main method adopted by many of the local gold miners, known here in Spanish as “oreros”.


The community of Dos Brazos de Río Tigre was one of the main gold mining communities settled in the Peninsula due to its location between the two arms of the Río Tigre and on the outskirts of the mountainous jungle landscape of what is now the Corcovado National Park. During this time, the Tigre River was said to be one of the rivers with the highest concentration of natural gold deposits in the entire Osa. As a result, for many years the main economic activity of the families that settled here was artisanal gold mining. However, due to speculation of the abundance of gold found in the area, along with these artisanal gold miners came extensive foreign commercial mining operations. However, unlike the practices of artisanal gold miners, mining company operations used extensive machinery to extract gold. Due to the nature of these business practices, these large-scale operations had a dramatic impact on the surrounding area, reshaping much of the peninsula's previously intact landscape. Not only did this result in the destruction of many wildlife habitats in the region, causing many species to become endangered, but it also had a significant environmental impact as a result of deforestation and landslides that altered forest lighting and affected local temperatures.


In response to this extensive environmental damage, in 1975 then-President Daniel Oduber established Corcovado National Park, a protected conservation territory on the Osa Peninsula that encompasses nearly 1/3 of the region's terrestrial landscape. With the formation of this protected territory came a major government effort to eradicate any extractive activity within the park boundaries and in the early 1980s the government completely banned gold prospecting in all its forms and began to strictly enforce these rules within this restricted territory. While this legislation improved environmental conditions in the long run, for many locals the immediate impact was overwhelmingly negative, resulting in widespread unemployment. Dos Brazos was one of the communities most affected by this new regulation, since many locals were prohibited from practicing the primary activities that allowed them to generate income to support their families for so many years.


Interested in learning more about the mining history of  Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre?

Contact us for a tour during your stay!

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