Monchique’s anti-mining movement picks up steam

Following the massive ‘letter bombardment’ against resurrected plans for feldspar mining on the south facing hillside of Monchique (click here), seasoned campaigners have regrouped and started forward planning.

Many of them die-hards of the 2011 campaign, the focus this time round is on raising awareness and challenging the possibility of ‘dirty tricks’ by the companies keen to start excavating areas of outstanding natural beauty.

First up is an awareness walk, organised by Alferce parish council for May 1 in areas under threat from companies Felmica and Sifucel.

Also high on the agenda is pushing local MPs to fight Monchique’s corner.

Fears are particularly high over the Corte Grande area earmarked by Felmica in its ‘revised bid’ for a licence to mine for feldspar – a mineral used in the ceramics industry.

It is “smaller” than the bid put forward six years ago.Locals believe this could be a ploy.

Said Ewen Hentall, leader of the campaign group formed under the umbrella of local environmental association A Nossa Terra (Our Earth): “This is a typical tactic and very common in the process of applying for exploration licenses.

“What then tends to happen is that the area suddenly ‘grows’.

“It could be, for example, that Felmica has been advised to ask for a smaller area, on the basis that this could see them granted a licence. But whatever the situation, we have fight this on the basis that any kind of licence would be illegal, given the laws and conditions of European protection”.

Further confusion comes with news that Sifucel – the same company that presented a bid alongside Felmica six years ago, and which was caught illegally excavating on the hillside last year (click here) – is also back in the loop.

For now, campaigners are restablishing contact with Algarve MP Paulo Sá – who fought the anti-feldspar corner six years ago – and watching government newspaper Diário da República like hawks (this is where details of any mining requests are published).

They urge everyone interested in the environment, and Monchique’s position as the ‘green lung of the Algarve’ to come onboard and help raise awareness by taking part in the hike “contra as pedreiras” (against quarrying) on Bank Holiday Monday, May 1.

The area for the 11 km walk will be the Corte Grande section of Picota hillside, which is a focus for rural and nature tourism, and would suffer irreparably from any kind of industrial activity.

As the Resident reported in March, Monchique council is also dead against the threat of feldspar mining, with mayor Rui André vowing that he will stand in front of the machines, rather than let Corte Grande be excavated.

Talking to us recently, André said he had appealed to prime minister António Costa for an audience in Lisbon, but as yet has heard nothing back.

For more details on the walk, scheduled to start at 9am on May 1, see the campaign’s facebook page: Movimento contra a Extração Mineira em Monchique

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