After decades of extractive activity in the Arrábida hills, LPN and other NGOs say it is time to "stop the wounds" and recover the landscape...

Portugal’s oldest environmental NGO calls time on quarrying in Arrábida natural park

Exposes quarry bosses for ‘desperately trying to change the rules”

LPN, the oldest environmental NGO on the Iberian Peninsula has called today for a definitive end to extractive activity by Secil Portugal in the Arrábida natural park.

In an open letter, the association that is this year celebrating its 75th year, also opposes the expansion requested by the cement company, on the basis that it is illegal.

“Instead of planning its end of life in Arrábida in a timely manner, Secil wants to deepen the wounds in the mountains”, says the letter, referring to Secil’s bid for what is known as the Vale de Mós A limestone quarry plan.

This plan, for the Outão area, provides for the merger of the current Vale de Mós A and Vale de Mós B quarries – of limestone and marl, the raw materials needed for cement production – and the expansion of the exploitation area of the two quarries by 18.5 hectares.

According to the cement company, the plan “reduces the exploitation quota from 40 to 80 metres above sea level”.

It would, in practice, “reduce the total exploration area of the two quarries by 18 hectares – thanks to the reversal of the 36 hectares already environmentally recovered – as well as enabling the creation of a 27-hectare level of environmentally and landscape-recovered area at a height of 80 metres above sea level”.

Says Secil, it would also make it possible to bring forward by about three years the end of cement mining in the Arrábida mountains, which, according to current estimates, “could continue for another 40 years”.

LPN’s letter, however, shows environmentalists are simply not buying it.

Calling for the “presentation of a plan to decommission Secil’s quarries in the Arrábida Natural Park and the consequent closure of its Outão plant”, the association argues that “the time has come” for Secil to “close its loop in this protected area. It must do so for its good name, for its social responsibilities, for respect of natural heritage, and for the sustainable development potential of the region, so damaged by wounds opened in the mountain by the factory and quarries”.

LPN stresses the Secil group has benefited “so much from the geographical resources of the Arrábida mountain range” and “should desist from seeking to increase the area to be exploited” for decades, in total contravention to the terms of the PNA management plan for the Arrábida park forged in 1976

Secil should be concentrating after all these years on recovering the landscape gouged in the name of concrete and invest in more sustainable alternatives, like the company’s Clean Cement Line project, “which proves the company’s capacity for innovation and maintenance of its human resources”.

“It is possible to give a new life to the Arrábida mountain range (…) through nature tourism and the enhancement of ecosystem goods and services”, says LPN, pointing out that the Regulation of the PNA Management Plan prohibits both new quarries, and the expansion of existing ones.

LPN also refers to the fact that the Outão plant is no longer viable (no longer has the necessary volume of limestone) – but that to get round this, Secil has been transporting limestone from other quarries to maintain production.

“If the recent crises in the construction sector had not slowed down the pace of extraction, Secil would already be close to ending its extractive activity in this protected area and would now be practically 100% dedicated to its renaturalisation,” says the environmental association.

But “instead of planning its end of life in good time, Secil waited for the end of the game to almost desperately launch one last card: its request to change the rules – legal instruments of land use planning – in its favour”.

LPN’s open letter was countersigned by fellow NGOs Quercus, Zero and Geota.

Source: LUSA