Map shows degree Portuguese government is prepared to go, just for lithium mining

Portugal’s government accused of ignoring populations in favour of mining companies

Various political parties have begun addressing the groundswell of public opinion in protected areas identified for mining.

PSD, Bloco de Esquerda, PAN and PEV – in other words, a complete cross section of the opposition – are concentrating their criticism on what they consider to be the ‘gaps’ in legislation that they say have ended up facilitating mining in areas that should be left intact.

The government’s mantra has always been “we must combat climate change by embracing green energy” – and that if the creation of ‘green energy’ inconveniences some, so be it.

But as PSD MP Luís Leite Ramos pointed out, energy transition should not mean  ‘anything goes’; that protected areas can be “devastated” and the “health and quality of life of populations sacrificed” just because they live close to valuable mineral deposits.

This, of course, is what civic movements and conservationists have been saying since the PS government outlined various areas for new mining concessions (click here).

But now that legislative elections are on the way, the drama is being addressed in parliament. 

The government has been acting “like a promoter for mining projects”, Leite Ramos told the House, “proclaiming the merits of ecological transition and the wonders of lithium without assuming in a clear and transparent way the defence of environmental, social and even economic rights of the territories targeted”.

The criticism was exactly what civic movements – and the local authorities that have been given no say in the situation – needed to hear.

BE and PCP MPs said much the same: the government is acting like a ‘facilitator for business’ that will put citizens’ lives and livelihoods at considerable risk.

And any arguments that “local opposition” is pointless now that mining rights have been granted “simply shows the rot of the (government’s) model”.

The upshot of debates last week is that MPs have called for a ‘report on the resources of the country’ from which mining licences can then be decided on the basis of economic and environmental criteria, taking into account the quality of life of populations.

Environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes did his best to suggest this is exactly what will be going on. “No mine will be authorised that hasn’t previously received a positive environmental impact evaluation”, he said – but as experience has shown, environmental impact evaluations are very often barely worth the paper they are written on.

For now, the government is under warning: opposition parties are siding with populations – and populations have already said there is no way they will leave this fight until they have won it (click here).

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