Battling anti-mining campaigners in Monchique have challenged the government to take a stand.
With all the arguments against ruination of the area of outstanding natural beauty by ‘heavy industrial activity’, they want the country’s leaders to declare “hands off Monchique” once and for all, to stop mining companies in their tracks.
As the group operating under the umbrella of local NGO A Nossa Terra explains, the mining threat reappears every few years in one shape or form.
No-one locally wants it, the council is dead-set against it – yet energies have to be martialled, events organised and petitions raised in order to fight the same battle again and again.
This time round, industrial minerals company Felmica is bidding for a slightly smaller concession, in the same Corte Grande area that it was interested in six years ago.
But fears are that the area would simply be increased the minute the company got its feet through the door.
Sifucel – another ‘old chestnut’ threatening the ancient hillside caught “illegally” prospecting last year (click here) – is also apparently still in the wings, for the same Carapitotas site it was after six years ago.
Yet A Nossa Terra campaigners stress that Monchique is protected by various national and international statutes, including Rede Natura 2000.
Indeed, anyone living in the area has to seek permission to build something as unthreatening as a tank to hold water for the purposes of irrigation.
Why is it therefore not a simple matter for the government to say: “Mining doesn’t work for Monchique”?
Mayor Rui André is still waiting for a meeting on the subject with prime minister António Costa, while A Nossa Terra and locals will be taking part in an 11 km protest walk on Monday May 1, meeting in Alferce at 9am.
The group this week is calling for “public and political support to try to bring this issue to the national and European stage”.
The reasons have always been clear: “Tourism of all types is growing in the area. Hotels and ‘alojamentos locais’ (short-term rentals businesses) have been opened in the last few years, bringing with them local employment.
“Mining, conversely, would not bring jobs”, says the group’s latest press release. “It would involve skilled personnel brought in from elsewhere.
“The Serra is visited by thousands of day-trippers. They come from the coast during the summer season (and out of season) for hiking and All Terrain Biking, horseriding, geocaching, etc.
“These forms of tourism are sustainable. In a hundred years’ time the grandchildren of people employed in these businesses will still have the potential to work in Monchique, whereas mining would leave the area heavily polluted and abandoned.
“Day-trippers will be put off, as nobody wants to vacation alongside heavy industry.
“The impact on nature would be immense and hazardous for local health. Water courses would be polluted – or simply disappear – infrastructure would be destroyed, the dust and noise would simply chase people and animals away.
“Existing underground waterlines would be altered or simply disappear.
“The Serra would be transformed from fairy-tale Nature paradise to arid grey desert – all the more devastating for communities that believed they were protected by Statutes valuing the importance of outstanding flora and fauna”.
To follow this fight, either take part in the May 1 walk which promises to take people through areas of stunning natural countryside, with plentiful stops for refreshments – or join the campaign Facebook page: movimento contra a extração mineira em monchique.
A Nossa Terra meantime will be lobbying regional MPs in a bid to get their support.