Despite having no licenses for any kind of extraction from the Monchique hillsides, a JCB working for Grupo Parapedra – a stone transformation company from Rio Maior – has been digging in the area since Christmas prompting fears among residents that the threat of feldspar mining is once again on the horizon.
For now, visits by the council and GNR police seem to have “stopped the activity”- but locals are “monitoring the situation closely”.
Earlier this week, a long-term resident involved in the campaign to keep Monchique free of mining sounded the alert, saying: “I can hear the (JCB) bucket hitting the rocks from three quarters of a mile away. Do they have a licence for this, or are they just pushing their luck?”
Parapedra is linked to Sifucel, the company that has been pushing for a licence to mine feldspar in an area it owns in Carapitotas.
According to a written response to questions posed recently in parliament, no rights with regard to feldspar exploration have been awarded, though the office of the Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs said: “It is important to point out that the Monchique hillsides have clusters of felspatoides (nepheline syenite rock containing feldspar) which are fairly easy to extract – and if there is the market demand, this may lead to extraction without recourse to the required legal mechanisms”.
This is exactly what locals believe has been going on in Carapitotas – five years after the last attempts to secure licences met with virulent local opposition, backed by Monchique council which has repeatedly stressed that no forms of mining, either open or underground, should be authorised on the south side of the mountain where populations rely heavily on tourism.
Today (Wednesday) the JCB in full swing this morning has been stopped, but for how long – and what may come next – is what locals are worrying about.
PHOTO: taken in Carapitotas on Wednesday morning