Iberian Wolf “expendable” if Montalegre’s lithium mine plan gets green-light – ecologists

ZERO dubs ‘set of compensation measures nothing more than promises’

With public participation on the locally vehemently contested lithium mine project in Montalegre now closed, environmental association ZERO has warned that the Iberian Wolf “will be expendable” if the project as it stands today gets the go-ahead. 

“The compatibility solution goes through a set of compensation measures that, according to ZERO in many points are nothing more than promises“, says the association in a statement in which it calls for modification of the environmental impact study (EIA) of the project “concession for the exploration of lithium mineral deposits and associated minerals – Romano”.

Under analysis are the locations of the mining annexes complex (CAM), which are to include a lithium refinery, washing plant and office buildings, as well as environmental minimisation and compensation measures affecting the Iberian wolf population.

At the beginning of the year, Lusorecursos was notified of a “favourable opinion” on the project that provides for both open pit and underground mining, but lost out on the CAM due to the presence of a wolf pack.

Today, in a statement, ZERO stresses the amendments continue to relegate natural assets to a “second plan”.

In this case, this means the Iberian wolf – a species that, although legally protected, “is strongly threatened“, “namely by the destruction and fragmentation of its habitat, caused by human activity” – is expendable.

“We cannot say that the compensation project will not have its virtues and benefits for the species, but these will always be in the long-term, travelling a path over several decades that far exceed the apparent lifetime of the mining project. So ZERO has many doubts that (the measures) will truly compensate in the short term for the impacts on the species”.

According to the association, the Ecological Systems Protection project aims to ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, namely by reforesting burned areas and scrubland with native species, recovering habitats that favour the wolf’s settlement in the mountains and creating conditions for the development of game species in order to balance the wolf’s food chain, creating conditions for it to cohabit in a region with a mine and a nearby village.

In addition, study and monitoring work, which almost, ZERO points out, “sacredly always appears as a minimisation measure in environmental impact assessment procedures, and rarely results in anything concrete, as well as awareness and management actions that promote the value of the wolf”.

For the environmentalists, the impacts on the territory, people and biodiversity “will be felt immediately, often irreversibly”, and can in “no way be limited to the Romano Mine”.

The association recalls that 14 kilometres from the Romano Mine, requests for the granting of rights for research prospecting and requests for the extension of mining areas are emerging, which are not limited to the expansion of the Barroso Mine, recently the subject of a favourable conditional decision.

In other words, companies are not stopping with the mining projects that local people are fighting currently: they are bidding for more. And this “certainly promise(s) to be an added factor of pressure on the landscape and the natural resources present and unsustainable use of the territory. In a case-by-case analysis of the projects, the Iberian Wolf is one of the species that will be forced to adapt “, considers ZERO.

Last Friday, mayor of Montalegre, Fátima Fernandes, took a position of a “clear and unequivocal no” to lithium exploration in the area, classifying the project as “harmful”.

Local people have been just as intransigent and determined, mounting frequent protests.

The government however has always shown itself to be pro-lithium mining.

Source material: LUSA