Montalegre prepares for new lithium protests

Determined anti-mining caravan takes protests through four northern villages

Opposition to several projects remains resolute

An anti-mining ‘caravan’ is winding its way through various threatened areas in the north today, reinforcing the message that mining companies – no matter what they pledge – are not welcome.

The initiative follows a vigil being undertaken in the area of Covas do Barroso to protect ‘common areas’ from excavation by heavy machinery allegedly working for British mining company Savannah Resources.

Today’s meeting point is in Morgade, with the route passing through Borralha, then into Dornelas and finally stopping in Covas do Barroso, in the municipality of Boticas.

Morgade is the spot chosen by Lusorecursos Lithium Portugal – a company that has never mined before – for its ‘Romano’ mine; Borralha is in the sights of mining company Minerália – Minas, Geotécnia e Construções, currently prospecting for wolfram and other minerals;  Dornelas already has an open pit mine  but locals are fighting plans to extend it – and Covas do Barroso is legendary, for its battle to save UNESCO World Agricultural Heritage from being destroyed by the zeal for lithium exploration.

Today’s caravan, involving members and supporters of Associação Povo e Natureza do Barroso (PNB), Unidos pela Natureza – Associação de Desenvolvimento de Dornelas, Unidos em Defesa de Covas do Barroso (UDCB), Associação Bio-N, Movimento Não às Minas – Montalegre, Espaço A Sachola, Rede Minas Não and Iris – Associação Nacional de Ambiente, seeks to alert “to the socio-ecological destruction that mining represents; expose the false narrative of green energy transition and demonstrate the union and strength of people when their territories are under threat”, explain demonstrators.

The Operation Influencer probe that brought down Portugal’s government has buoyed opposition to mining, in that it specifically involves the projects of Lusorecursos and Savannah. Since the probe, further legal actions have been lodged in a bid to try and put a stop to excavations.

Equally, a group of four associationsPovo e Natureza do Barroso (PNB), Íris, BioN – Biodiversidade do Norte de Portugal and a Unidos pela Natureza (Couto de Dornelas) – has denounced the fact that prospecting work is ongoing on land in Montalegre that the national laboratory of geology and engineering (LNEG) declared was “very polluted” in a study published almost a decade ago. 

The pollution resulted from waste material from the old wolfram mines of Borralha, explains diariotrasosmontes.  Since that time “nothing has changed”, say the associations, and thus the health of workers currently prospecting as well as that of local residents, “are at high risk” due to contaminated dust that will be transported through the air.

Adding to the constant efforts by northern populations to repel mining initiatives, an Open Letter to the European Commission recently highlighted the issue of corruption that it says is “endemic in mining”, suggesting the whole strategy to mine/ extract and make use of critical raw materials is flawed.

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