A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) carried out in eight geographical areas in northern Portugal with potential for the mining of lithium has excluded two – Arga and Segura – while giving the green light for six others, it was disclosed on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Action (MAAC) said that “in the six viable sites it is proposed to reduce the initial area by half”.
According to the SEA, which was carried out by Portugal’s Directorate-General of Energy and Geology, “areas of higher urban, functional and demographic density were excluded, with a reduction of 49% of the total area” initially analysed in the study.
The ministry said that the public tender to award rights to prospect for and mine lithium “may move forward in the next 60 days”.
After the tender procedure and prospecting – which is to take place within five years – the extraction of lithium may begin, with each of the projects subject to a separate Environmental Impact Assessment.
The exclusion of the area called Arga, located in the Serra d’Arga range, in the Alto Minho, in Portugal’s far north, is justified by its “expected classification as a Protected Area” – which the study notes implies that “more than half the area” will be “considered prohibited or to be avoided.”
The Serra d’Arga stretches across the municipalities of Caminha, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima, and is currently classified as a Protected Landscape Area of Regional Interest.
Besides Arga, an area straddling the parishes of Arga de Baixo, Arga de Cima and Arga de São João, all in the municipality of Caminha, the SEA also excludes the area called Segura, in Castelo Branco, because it is “planned to redefine the limits of the Special Protection Area of the International Tagus” and this would also limit mining.
“The environmental restrictions [in those two locations] inhibit prospection and consequent exploration, thus remaining outside the object of the future tender,” the ministry said in its statement, Euractiv writes.