After Passos Coelho’s government declared it would use mining as a way of boosting the economy, and Portuguese exports are already worth as much as €856 million, Chilean businessmen are on their way for a fact-finding visit.
Leading businessman in the sector Pedro del Campo Toledo said the trip could see new contracts and – more importantly – new mining ventures up and down the country.
Talking to Sol newspaper, the entrepreneur said: “There are many (Chilean) companies interested in investing in Portugal.”
The Portuguese government has already signed well over 100 mining contracts since coming into power in 2011 – but even so, only 30% of the country’s mining potential is being tapped, say experts. Thus it is anyone’s guess where the Chilean businessmen will be looking.
For now, all Toledo would say is that “they will be very interested to get to know the Portuguese mining process”.
He even suggested that their visit at the end of the year could “serve as a platform to accomplish other deals in the region, like with Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil or Argentina”.
Mining ongoing in PortugalHe had also defended “strong fiscal and financial incentives to encourage national and foreign companies to invest in Portugal’s natural resources”.
But there is still a long way to go, and this is why bridge-building with countries like Chile is so important.
In June this year a group of Portuguese businessmen are set to visit the South American country, and Toledo believes this will be when everything will start.
“There are many opportunities in our country,” he explained, stressing that partnership deals could result in direct investment in Portuguese mines particularly as many of the biggest multinational mining corporations conduct business in Chile – including Rio Tinto which is active already throughout Portugal and Spain.
Could Algarve be back on the mining map?
As this news filters through, concern spikes once again over mining plans for the Monchique hillside. Residents took a tough stand over three years ago when two projects to extract feldspar deposits were mooted for the southern slopes of Picota. Backed by local mayor Rui André, the consensus was – and still is – that mining will effectively destroy the mountain’s thriving rural tourism sector.
Could sudden interest from Chileans change all this?
Contacted by the Resident newspaper, Silva Pereira from the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology said that the original projects have been consigned to the back burner because “they did not fit the standards set by the authority”.
Nonetheless, he said that one of the operators, Sifucel Sílicas S.A., is currently attempting to adjust its project to the requirements stipulated. One of these centres on “the reduction of the total area included in the project”.
Felmica S.A. is also said to be interested in reformulating its project, but it has yet to officially express its intentions.
“It will be a shame if these projects do not move forward as they could generate wealth and jobs,” Silva Pereira considered.
“Obviously feldspar is not gold or oil, but it would still be a possible source of wealth”.