Children of Montalegre joining January protest
Children of Montalegre joining January protest. Their messages: "Don't I count...?" and "Don't destroy my future"

National group gets green light for open-pit/ underground lithium mine in Montalegre

Local people in uproar plan new demo

Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium – a company with some questions hanging over it – has been given the green-light for the exploration of lithium (both open pit and underground) in Montalegre.

Visão newsmagazine reports that the assessment committee of the Romano mine has validated the mixed exploration of lithium, stating that “this is the last opinion of the environmental impact assessment procedure”.

However, according to Visão, the location of the lithium refinery within the plan has been rejected, due to the presence on the site of a pack of Iberian wolves.

Contacted by Lusa news agency Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium confirms that yes, it has been successful in its application for a mixed exploration, open-pit and underground, as well as a complex of mining annexes, but that the location of the latter has been rejected.

“All the elements included in the environmental impact study (EIA) have a favourable opinion, except for the location of the mining annex complex, which includes the washing plant, administrative buildings and the refinery”, a source for the company has explained.

He also ensured that a solution “will be studied to address concerns raised about this location, noting that the company now has a period of six months to present that solution, which will be assessed together with the Portuguese environmental agency (APA)”.

Only after this procedure will the environmental impact declaration (DIA) be issued, says Lusa – which to a certain extent may give opponents valuable time to work with.

Certainly, social media pages bringing local people together are alight with outrage and disbelief.

A new demo has been scheduled for Friday February 18 in Coimbra, with the rallying cry being: “Say no to the destruction of our land!

Writing on the Movimento Não As Minas – Montalegre facebook page, administrator Vítor Afonso believes: “The country has hit rock bottom. Some of the institutions that sustain it are decrepit. They have lost all credibility. Just another embarrassment to add to all the others”.

As Lusa’s text has explained, the assessment committee that gave the green-light was made up of “several departments of APA (the Portuguese environment agency) as well as the institute of nature conservation and forests, the directorate general of cultural heritage, the commission for coordination and regional development of the north, the directorate general of energy and geology, among other bodies”.

Vitor Afonso’s anguished post has received a torrent of commentaries, as the atmosphere in Montalegre appears to be a long way from one of resignation.

As one of the many critics elaborated: “What committee is this that can turn a blind eye to the unacceptable negative environmental impact on one of the regions with the greatest biodiversity in the country, and which must be preserved?

What committee is this that underestimates the unacceptable impact on the availability and quality of water resources?

“And why is the lie forever supported that lithium is indispensable for the production of batteries? This is hiding the fact that there is already the possibility of producing solid batteries using sodium instead of lithium. They have much more capacity to store energy and last much longer…

There is something very strange about this process… even if it were indispensable, there is no doubt that it is unacceptable to disfigure this particular corner of Portugal –  a region classified as World Agricultural Heritage – just as it is unacceptable to jeopardise the availability and quality of essential water resources”.

The battle continues. 

One of the stream of commentators on Movimento Não As Minas quips: “If we were our ancestors, we would have already sent this band of bandits packing…”

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