Fears beautiful European country could be destroyed by rare mineral mining
Fears are growing that beautiful natural landscapes in one European country could be ruined by rare earth mineral mining.
In response to investigations leading to the resignation of Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and focusing on the Barroso lithium scandal, various associations are intensifying their calls for an immediate halt to rare earth mineral exploration projects in Portugal.
The groups, including Associação Montalegre com Vida, Povo e Natureza do Barroso, United for Nature – Dornelas Development Association, and others, are emphasising the potential harm to already disadvantaged regions and expressing concerns that these projects could mar the natural beauty of the landscapes.
The focal point of the controversy revolves around the municipalities of Montalegre and Boticas in the district of Vila Real, where rare earth mineral exploration, particularly lithium, is under intense scrutiny.
The investigations by the Attorney General’s Office are delving into suspicions of active corruption involving government officials, including Minister of Infrastructure João Galamba and APA President Nuno Lacasta.
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In a collective statement, the activist groups argued that the government’s promotion of rare earth mineral extraction, such as lithium, lacks ecological or climatic justification and primarily serves to create business opportunities for a select few.
Lithium, a crucial element for the ecological transition, is essential for producing batteries for electric cars, touted as a cleaner alternative to traditional vehicles emitting carbon dioxide.
The involvement of APA President Nuno Lacasta as a defendant in the investigations intensifies suspicions among environmental movements and the general public that mining exploration processes have lacked transparency in Portugal. Despite opposition from local populations, authorities, and environmental groups, the APA issued Environmental Impact Statements in favour of rare earth mineral mines in both Montalegre and Boticas.
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Nelson Gomes, president of the Unidos Em Defesa de Covas do Barroso association, criticised the lack of transparency in contract negotiations and the APA’s denial of access to process documents. He emphasised the government’s alignment with the company’s interests rather than the well-being of the population.
Armando Pinto, head of the Associação Montalegre Com Vida, described the entire process as non-transparent and believes the new investigations support their claims against the rare earth mineral projects.
While Nuno Forner of Zero – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável expressed faith in administrative processes, he acknowledged the significant environmental impacts of the rare earth mineral projects. He urged calmness as justice evaluates the issues at hand but acknowledged the potential damage to the landscape and the concerns of activists over the destruction of scenic beauty in the pursuit of these mining projects.
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