PSD's Emília Cerqueira speaking out against government's plans for lithium exploration in unique protected heritage landscapes

Northern communities “shocked and indignant” over speed government moves on lithium since elections

The Beira Serra anti-mining movement has reacted “in shock and with indignation” over the form in which the government has moved on its plans to carve great chunks of the countryside up for lithium mining.

Two days after the results of municipal elections was all it took for the preliminary environmental evaluation of the government’s plan to enter public consultation.

“The choice of moment, straight after knowledge of the electoral results, reveals the dissimulation in this entire process, from the hiding of the issue during the election campaign to the assumption of unlimited permission that justifies everything with results obtained”, Renata Almeida, spokesperson of the Movimento ContraMineração Beira Serra, has told Lusa.

The DGEG (general directorate of energy and geology) opened the public consultations process for eight areas of the country on Tuesday. 

Locals – and the public in general – now have until November 10 to make their feelings known.

Among the 10,000 hectares involved in what is an international ‘tender’ for the attribution of prospection rights are parts of the municipalities of Caminha, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima – all of them straddling the stunning Serra d’Arga. 

Just under half the area (4,280 hectares) is classified “a Site of Community Importance”, while the Serra itself enjoys classification as an Area of Protected Landscape of Regional Interest. 

This is why communities are fighting so hard against mining plans.

As Renata Almeida stresses, since formation of the SOS Serra d’Arga movement, the five municipalities of Viana do Castelo district have given prospection and exploration plans – not just for lithium, but for other minerals – the thumbs-down. 

The movement is “not expecting” municipalities to change their minds.

“The movement will obviously take part in this public consultations process, and calls on all Arga council bodies – municipal and parish councils – to do the same. Recently 30 parish councils and common land commissions which could be directly affected by this project signed our manifesto, in which rejection of the mines was categorically stated”.

Explain reports, the civic movement is committed to “the defence of the population and territory” to the extent that it will not allow the sinking of even one prospection shaft.

Opponents claim there has been “a total lack of transparency and will to bring the local population on board by the government and competent entities” and defend that “protected and classified areas essential to people’s health, well-being and sustainability should be preserved and promoted”, said the text sent to Lusa.

These struggles are invariably David against Goliath. But in the Herculean campaign against drilling for oil and gas waged in the Algarve some years back, David (meaning the little people) won (click here).

In this campaign, communities in the areas of Serra d’Arga, Montalegre, Boticas and Barroso have essentially banded together, believing in the strength of numbers.

They also have a powerful ally in the form of PSD MP Emília Cerqueira who has this week spoken out in parliament about how she too believes the government is “trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes”, and get these plans through which will, she said, “destroy extraordinary heritage landscapes”, not to mention people’s livelihoods and ways of life.

Next Saturday (October 9), the movements have called a public meeting in Coimbra to “reflect on the paradoxes of decarbonisation underway; the struggles of populations in areas sacrificed and the energetic, political and economic alternatives to the official narrative”.

As the meeting’s text explains, “the European Union seeks to disembowel entire territories, destroying biodiversity and populations’ ways of life in the name of combating climate change. Will destroying the environment really combat climate change? Or does this policy of “energetic transition” correspond to the perpetuation of the same destructive patterns that created the socio-ecological crisis?”

For further information on this meeting, see the Facebook page of Movimento Não As Minas – Montalegre.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com