A CASE STUDY IN LIME
TRADITIONAL BATCH TECHNIQUES IN PATARRÁ, COSTA RICA
Lime has been used in agriculture and construction in Costa Rica for many generations, much
of it on coffee plantations.
In 1960 the lime industry began to have strong competition in the construction sector from
the newly installed cement factory at Cartago, 20 km south of San José, but, at the same
time, there has been continued demand for high quality lime from the sugar processing and
Patarrá (located 10 km south of San José, the capital city) was in the past the most important
lime production centre in the country but has declined in recent years. There are thought to
be two main reasons for this decline:
• The deposit is located too near the city so land which might otherwise be used for
lime production is used for building, or is too close to buildings and lime production
there would be a potential pollution hazard.
• The chemical purity of the larger deposits (at about 86% CaCO3 on average, although
this figure can be higher for individual deposits) is less than in some other parts of
Costa Rica. For example, in Nicoya, in the Guanacaste province, the deposits are of
98% purity, and in Fila de Cal in Puntarenas they contain 99% CaCO3.
This case study illustrates the traditional techniques utilized for producing hydrated lime
specifically in Patarrá, but the same methods are also employed in other areas of the country.
It should also be added that the Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica (ITCR) and Appropriate
Technology International (ATI) have been developing improved lime burning techniques in
Patarrá, in collaboration with The National Lime Producers Cooperative (Coonaprocal), since
1959. However, these have not been described in this leaflet but another leaflet such as this
describes such improved techniques introduced at Colorado in Nicoya in the Guanacaste
province in Costa Rica.
Raw materials and quarrying techniques
Patarrá contains large deposits of marble. A company which has built a cement plant in the
area has mapped these deposits out extensively.
The Patarrá lime producers rely on the colour of the rock and its hardness to assess if it
would be suitable for lime making. They rarely get a laboratory analysis done on it.
25% of the fuel used for burning the carbonate is wood from trees growing in the coffee
plantations and 75% is waste material from wood processing industries. On average the
fuelwood is brought in from about 8 km away. In the past the lime producers caused
deforestation, but at present the fuel used is from renewable sources.
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