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Economic crisis could lead to mining project going ahead

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

In an exclusive interview with the Algarve Resident, Monchique Mayor Rui André voiced his opposition to the proposal of a large scale mining project going ahead in the area.

A controversial mining project in an environmentally protected area of Monchique is unlikely to go ahead, says Monchique Mayor, but warned that there is still a small possibility that it could get the green light because of the current financial crisis facing Portugal.

The plan was discussed at a meeting on June 23 attended by Rui André, the Geology General Directorate (DGEG) and local concerned residents.

Mayor Rui André said: “The majority of the residents are against this project and there was a series of questions from them about what is actually planned for this area. This meeting has clarified what is really at issue.”

The company involved in the project, FELMICA-Minerais Industriais S.A, which extracts and processes raw materials for the ceramic and glass industry, has asked for permission to explore for feldspar mineral deposits in this area which covers a total of 1,612 square kilometres on the south side of Picota, between Fornalha and Alto de Baixo.

He said that Monchique Municipality is against this project, but stressed that the Government always has the final decision on these matters.

“The project has been planned in a REN environmentally protected area and near homes, and we are 99% sure that it will not be approved because of these constraints.

“We are still worried about the 1% possibility of this project going ahead because the Government can justify the approval due to the economic crisis and this exploration could be financially positive, but very bad for the environment.”

Negative impact

During the meeting, DGEG members shared their position about this project and made the Mayor and residents, many of foreign nationality, aware that they are not willing to approve the mining plan. A spokesman from DGEG told the Algarve Resident: “These projects take a long time to be approved due to their nature and number of environmental issues that need to be drawn up.

“The project will only progress if the government considers it economically viable. People should not be alarmed because this project will only go ahead with the approval of all parties – residents, Câmara and parish councils – and our obligation is to hear people’s opinions and not affect land owners and the environment.”

Rui André said: “The area where the mine is planned to be constructed has many environmental resources that cannot be destroyed. This would create a negative and irreversible environmental impact. This is a tourist area and the construction of a mine here would have a very negative visual impact and would be very harmful to residents in the area.

“I’m waiting for the new government to settle down to schedule a meeting with the new Minister of Economy in order to expose the situation and our concerns about this project.”

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]