The Swedish state-controlled mining company LKAB has announced the discovery within the Arctic Circle, in a remote northern region, of a deposit totalling more than a million tons of the 27 metals which constitute the “rare earth” group of minerals.
These are essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles, wind turbines and all manner of other equipment essential for the green technology which will transform the European energy market.
Although the extraction process will be slow at first, eventual production will enable manufacturers to obtain this valuable resource (for which prices have rocketed in recent years) and thus replace dependence on supply from China and Russia.
The early return of the global inclement weather system known as El Niño is being forecast for the late summer of 2023. With it will come higher temperatures and longer periods of drought than we experienced during 2022.
If this proves to be correct, the conditions for the storage of water and limitations on its use will become even more critical and require strict regulation so that potability and irrigation for agriculture may be sustained.
These two factors have lent clout to the renewed voices of the citizens’ protest movements which plan to stage in the seven districts where mining companies, nearly all foreign-owned, are seeking to conclude contracts before March for the exploitation of metals such as lithium and copper.
For example, the ‘Montalegre Com Vida’ Association has stated that the Environmental Impact Study for the Romano mine in its Morgade locality calculates that 10,000 m3 of water will be required daily if the projected production level is to be achieved and asks from whence will come this huge volume at a time when local reservoirs are at historic lows and wells to subterranean aquifers are showing depleted stocks.
Pressures upon the government – both by the EU and the international elitist corporations which largely decide the direction of the global economy – to sell off Portugal’s strategic resources will continue.
The best that can be hoped for is a negotiated reduction in this exploitation by at least one-half over the next five years, with an unconditional provision for suspension should the threat of calamitous environmental deterioration become a reality.
Comment by ROBERTO CAVALEIRO