MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Portugal: "Rethink lithium" - "Avoid environmental disaster"!

Published by MAC on 2019-11-05
Source: Environment South East Euope

That's an NGO demand

Citizens of Portugal have been increasingly militating against a new government's policy to back lithium mining, regarding it as threatening to land and water, according to the NGO Quercus.

Portugal NGO Quercus urges government to ‘rethink lithium’ and avoid
“environmental disaster”

Environment South East Europe

3 November 2019.

Environmental NGO Quercus is urging the newly-inaugurated Portuguese
government to rethink its strategy for lithium exploration in order to
avoid an environmental disaster.

With the whole lithium debate high in the public eye – particularly over
allegations of insider ‘dirty dealing’ – Quercus has stressed the
importance of listening to “legitimate concerns” of populations,
councils and environmental associations.

“If NGOs, mayors, councillors and people are against, I believe the
government will reconsider”, Quercus’ Paulo do Carmo told Lusa [new agency].

“This is not about just digging our heels in for the sake of it. We’re
hoping the decision of the secretary of state regarding around 10 new
areas of lithium exploration will protect the lives of Portuguese
people, nature conservation and the value and biodiversity of the interior.

“We’re hoping his report does not translate into an environmental
disaster for Portugal”.

But as the secretary of state concerned is João Galamba – the man
highlighted in a recent TV exposé – environmentalists admit to being
“concerned”, particularly as Galamba’s report will affect “thousands of
hectares across several points of the country”.

In Quercus’ view, exploration planned for natural parks and protected
areas will have a “violent impact on underground water sources”,
affecting homes, businesses and ways of life that rely on water pumped
from boreholes.

Projects outlined for the Serras de Estrela and Malcata, for Serra
d’Arga in the Minho region, for Argemela in Castelo Branco, for Nelas
(Viseu) and Boticas (Vila Real) are diametrically opposed to the
government’s pledge for a transition towards renewable energies, said
the activist.

“This would be anything but. We’re talking about open-pit mining…” more
often than not in interior regions already affected by dwindling
demographics".

The government’s way forwards “should not seriously affect the lives of
people who have chosen to live in the interior”, do Carmo told Lusa,
adding that it’s all very well for the State to have assessed the
potential (financial worth of) lithium exploration in this country, but
it must also assess how people will be able to live alongside it.

Lusa adds that while several people’s protests have mobilised against
plans for lithium exploration, economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira has
tried to dismiss fears as unfounded – saying the use of mineral
resources “must always safeguard and respect the environment”.

At the same time however Siza Vieira has emphasised that the
government’s objectives go beyond lithium exploration. It hopes to
promote a refinery on national soil, thus ensuring increased profits for
all involved.

 

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