Associations within Portugal’s mining sector have written an Open Letter to prime minister António Costa ‘reminding him of the importance of the mineral in reducing the country’s economic and energetic dependency’ on other countries. Says ECO online, the sector considers “it is still possible to create a value chain in Portugal for lithium” but not if the government drags its feet and “kills” investment opportunities.
“Portugal cannot waste the potential and opportunity in the context of a low carbon economy in which mineral resources will be more important than ever”, says the text – stressing the “importance” of mining in terms of “the generation of employment, wealth, increase in exports and contribution to social cohesion”.
Reading between the lines, ASSIMAGRA (a group including the Portuguese association of the mineral resources industry, the mineral resources association cluster, the Portuguese association of geologists, the Portuguese association of ceramic and glass industries, the College of Geological Engineering and Mines and the Order of Engineers) seems to believe that projects should be green-lighted by ‘licencing entities’ with ‘recognised experience’ and not given to consideration to ‘communities or municipal councils’. Bearing in mind it is communities and municipal councils that tend to fight these projects, it is quite clear that ASSIMAGRA is trying to persuade the government that it is in the national interest to bypass the opinions of populations when these do not see things ASSIMAGRA’s way.
The group particularly says it cannot see the point in strategic environmental studies as they “discriminate negatively” against a metal that is “critical and strategic for Portugal and for Europe”.
Even more important, the last few years, it says, have seen an “enormous delay or lack of response or decision to dozens of requests made by businesses that operate in Portugal, to the extent that some have already given up investing in the sector and the country”.
From the government’s side, the environment ministry announced five months ago there were 11 areas under consideration for the granting of rights to lithium exploration but that whatever goes ahead must have “reduced impacts on the countryside”.
Since then, minority parties have insisted on a strategic environmental impact study going ahead before anything is decided– but very little seems to have moved forward in this regard. Last month civic groups made a call for greater transparency in the whole process. Thus the sector’s Open Letter calling for civic opinions to be sidelined suggests something less than transparent could be underway.