New protest camp scheduled against Barroso lithium mine

New protest camp scheduled against Barroso lithium mine

Opponents of Covas do Barroso project have been in this fight for five years

A camp and demonstration in Covas do Barroso, (municipality of Boticas), has been once again scheduled for this month – seeking to reinforce the five year fight against a project for the largest open pit lithium mine in Europe, which recently received a favourable environmental impact statement (DIA).

“If this project goes ahead, it will have to be carried out by force”, one of the principal opponents, Nélson Gomes, told Lusa. “It will have to be done against the will of the population. This is a project that goes against everything and everyone”, he said.

The association Unidos em Defesa de Covas do Barroso has been campaigning against this plan since its inception. It is backed by the municipality of Boticas whose mayor “reacted with sadness”, confirm reports, when the DIA was granted, stressing the mine would put an enormous amount of local investment in livestock farming, agriculture and tourism at risk. 

The mine is also opposed by environmental organisations which concur wholeheartedly with the premise that mining actvitity will negatively affect the quality of underground water sources beyond the fact that it will also require large quantities of water in order to operate – therefore putting the area’s sustainability at risk.

Water is the most important resource we have, and we have to preserve it”, Nélson Gomes reiterates. “Since mining is one of the activities that consume the most water, this is, in fact, one of our biggest concerns: the water they will need for their mining and the water they will pollute”.  

Thus this year’s protest camp begins today, and is ‘accompanied’ by support from citizens from various countries, beyond Portugal (including, says Lusa, the Netherlands and Mexico).

As with past years, the Bank Holiday next week on August 15 will see another colourful protest, uniting residents with protestors, to show the strength of feeling against this project led by British company Savannah Resources.

As Nélson Gomes stressed, the camp and the demo is “intended, once again, to demonstrate to the government that we will not accept the exploitation of lithium in this region classified as World Agricultural Heritage“.

Over the next few days there will be debates, workshops, walks and concerts.

Gomes added that since the DIA ‘green light’ – ostensibly giving Savannah Resources the permission they have been waiting for – “nothing has changed”

Landowners “continue to own the land (earmarked for mining), and the company still has no right of access to (it) or social legitimacy to move forwards with the project”.

The DIA also involves a wide range of constraints, adds Lusa – “demanding environmental requirements”; “a package of socio-economic compensations, such as the allocation of exploration charges (‘royalties’) due to the municipality of Boticas and, among other local benefits, the construction of a new access that avoids the disruption of populations”.

The Barroso mine has an estimated duration of 17 years, and the planned concession area is 593 hectares.

In the past, experts have suggested even the estimated duration is dubious; there may not be the reserves touted, in which case this project will have disrupted lives and businesses in a rural community for even less in terms of ‘economic benefit’ .

Source material: LUSA