The race to win lucrative contracts for the exploration of lithium may have bizarrely played into protestors hands, at least in the municipality of Montalegre.
Former associates at Lusorecursos have fallen out to the extent that one has gone to court to try and get the mining licence clinched by another annulled.
The situation is further muddled by reports that both men “have been accused by DCIAP of the greatest fraud in the obtention of community funding in memory in Portugal”.
Said an exposé aired by Sexta às 9 earlier this year, both men allegedly participated in ‘diverting’ around 10 million euros (click here).
The alleged fraud has seen a number of other people, all of them connected to the Minho industrial association, cited as defendants – but the case has yet to go to trial.
Said SOL last year, it’s a story that has always somehow bypassed the scrutiny of national media.
And for reasons of its own, the Portuguese government has clearly paid it little heed – granting the company Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium the licence to start exploration in Morgade, Montalegre, in March, irrespective of any illegality overshadowing its top brass.
The problem is that residents of Morgade and surrounding communities are so virulently against the plan that they refused to vote in recent legislative elections, and boycotted the European elections last May (click here).
Even the mayor refused to vote.
Thus the government – with a mantra that lithium mining is Portugal’s future – is really in a pickle.
On the one hand it has lost the votes of all the villages affected, on the other Lusorecursos SGPS is intent on overturning the licence awarded to Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium – and may have some valid arguments.
The environment ministry is described as “contesting the action”, saying it has no legitimacy.
But for the time being, the bottom line is that lithium deposits under the villages of Morgade, Carvalhais and Rebordelo are staying just where they are (deep underground), and that is exactly where local residents want them to stay.