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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal’s Iberian Wolf Delays Lithium Mine Approval


The Iberian wolf, endangered in Portugal, is protected by national and international laws.

 

Despite sustained protest, the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) gave a favorable opinion on the open pit and underground exploration of lithium in Montalegre, Vila Real District. However, it rejected the location of the refinery due to the presence of a pack of Iberian wolves, reported Visao (February 1). Iberian wolves are an endangered species in Portugal, according to the Portuguese Society of Ecology.


Also, the company, Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium, must perform surveys that show the existence of sufficient reserves to merit exploration.


The agency said that Lusorecursos has up to six months to reformulate elements of the project. According to Visao:


“The question of the location of the Mining Annex Complex, which includes the lithium refinery, offices and other support structures, is now being evaluated between the company and the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), since one of the proposed locations violates the Municipal Master Plan of Montalegre (due to ecological and tourist safeguards) and the other is located in an area close to the territory of the Leiranco Iberian wolf pack, without it being possible to implement measures that minimize the impacts on this endangered species that is protected by law.”


The Iberian wolf, a subspecies of grey wolf, inhabits the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes northern Portugal and northwestern Spain. A predator, it lives in packs of between two to 10, according to SPECO, the Portuguese Society of Ecology.


Montalegre com Vida, the community group that spearheaded opposition to the project, requested clarification “as soon as possible” from the APA about its decision, reported Lusa in Noticias de Coimbra (February 1).

“The APA cannot play with peoples’ lives. This is not the way to communicate anything. Once again, the way things are being done is not well done from our point of view,” said Armando Pinto, the group’s coordinator.


Lusa also tried to obtain clarification from the APA but without success.

If the proposed Romano mine has received approval, Armando Pinto said that he was “very concerned” about the consequences for the surrounding villages as well as for the municipality.


Lusorecursos’ previous Environmental Impact Assessment was rejected outright. In April 2021, the Minister of Environment and Climate, Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes, accused “the promoter of a lack of professionalism given the technical shortcomings of the EIA presented. He said that it would be doubtful for the project to go ahead,” reported Politico (April 22, 2021).


Public consultation of the current mining company’s Environmental Impact Assessment ended on May 10. It garnered 511 participants and 561 people following the issue on the Participa portal. According to Lusa, it was one of the largest participations on the online portal regarding mining projects.


The Evaluation Commission comprises several departments of the APA: the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (entity that vetoed the location of the refinery due to the presence of the Iberian wolf); the Regional Health Administration of the Center; the National Laboratory of Energy and Geology; Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage; Commission for the Coordination and Regional Development of the North; Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto; Directorate-General for Energy and Geology, and the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection and Higher Institute of Agronomy/Center for Applied Ecology (Prof . Baeta Neves), reported Visao.


Most residents oppose the proposed mine because of air pollution, noise and the enormous demand for water. Simply put, they oppose it because they are protecting their way of life, which earned them status as a United Nations Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System.


The economic benefits have not persuaded the populace in the northern Portuguese district on the Spanish border, according to SIC Noticias (March 21, 2022).


The anticipated increased demand for electric cars has propelled lithium into the category of “white gold” as mining companies compete for extraction contracts around the world. The light metal also is used in batteries for telephones and laptop computers.


I live in the foothills of the Serra da Estrela in central Portugal, and I oppose lithium mining. “Nao a Mina; Sim a Vida” (“No to Mining; Yes to Life”) is the motto of the movement against lithium mining in Portugal.






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