Mineral exploration in the country is being opposed by residents, councils and environmental groups.
A company based in the United Arab Emirates, Exchange Minerals Ltd, has made a formal request to mine on Portuguese soil. The request was made to excavate for minerals such as gold, copper, silver, and zinc, across a total area of four hundred and ten square kilometres.
The Left Bloc (BE) party has already come forward against the prospect of such development, basing such opposition mainly on environmental grounds. According to Pedro Soares, a BE Member of Parliament, there is an inherent contradiction between the possibility of having a mine of such a “brutal dimension with the goals that have been published by the Government with regard to fighting climate change”.
The Évora Town Hall and environmentalist association Quercus have now exercised their right, within the terms of public consultation, to officially oppose the proposed exploration. The Town Hall justified its opposition by saying that the attribution of a mining license “is against the interests of the population of the Évora Council and the region as a whole”.
Quercus cited “enormous environmental impacts” as part of its oppositional stance, while also appealing to the Government to reject Exchange Mineral’s ambitions altogether.
Moreover, 1,500 people have protested against the exploration of uranium in the Spanish locality of Zahinos, a few kilometres from the Portuguese border.
Among the protesters were local Portuguese politicians and Spanish municipal Presidents. At the heart of the protests were concerns of both social and an environmental nature.
According to the Iberian Energy Observatory, uranium destroys its mining surroundings, allowing highly radioactive substances to infiltrate and contaminate water and land, consequently also reaching animals and people.
Politically, the issue is of a complex nature, considering that even though the uranium mines can negatively impact Portuguese territory and populations, Spain has no obligation to neither consult nor consider its neighbour because the excavations would sit within its sovereign borders.