Environmental impact of planned Montalegre lithium mine favourable – APA

But dissenters vow to continue battle against

The Romano lithium mine, proposed for Montalegre, in Portugal’s northern district of Vila Real, has obtained a favourable conditional Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) from the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), according to the document consulted by Lusa today.

According to the document, APA’s decision is “conditionally favourable for mining operations and for solution two (to the south-east of the mining area) for the location of the waste facility”.

APA adds that “it has not been possible to identify, in the context of this Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure, any location that is currently considered viable for the mining annexes complex (CAM)“, which includes the refinery, washing plant and administrative buildings.

The concession covers a total area of 825.4 hectares in the village of Morgade, in the municipality of Montalegre, in the district of Vila Real.

The “Concession for the Exploration of Lithium Mineral Deposits and Associated Minerals – Romano” project, proposed by Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium (a company with a degree of notoriety) is aimed at the exploration of lithium mineral deposits and their transformation. It proposes mixed open-cast and underground mining and foresees a useful life of 13 years, which may be extended.

The project includes, in addition to the mining and extraction waste disposal area, the refinery within the CAM, where the raw ore will be processed. (Portugal currently has no refineries for lithium).

Between June and July, a modification to the project was under public consultation with the aim of analysing the locations of the mining annexes complex, as well as the environmental minimisation and compensation measures with an impact on the Iberian wolf population.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the project’s conditions include the payment of financial compensation by Lusorecursos to the local council of Montalegre.

The Environmental Impact Statement also states that the location of the CAM “should be further analysed under an independent EIA procedure“, which should take place in the same municipality and preferably in the location corresponding to solution A, if “the situation of incompatibility of the project with the Montalegre Municipal Master Plan (PDM) is overcome” and “it is possible to demonstrate, in the context of the prevention of serious accidents, the compatibility of the project with the current and planned uses for the surroundings of the establishment”.

If this is also possible, the company must ensure that the impacts of the project on the lifestyle and quality of life of the affected communities are adequately minimised and compensated for, specifically by providing monetary compensation to enable the purchase of new housing (including land and construction) and/ or compensation for the direct or indirect loss of productivity of agricultural or livestock production, including the subsequent abandonment of the land (which detractors say is inevitable).

In solution A, the CAM is located to the north, outside the concession area, in a flat area that allows quick access for the disposal of the lithium hydroxide produced.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement, if solution A is submitted to the EIA procedure, this could take place during the implementation project phase.

The project proposes 141 minimisation measures, to be implemented in the various phases of implementation as well as various monitoring programmes, such as impacts on water resources, air quality, noise, vibrations, soil and socioeconomics, the Barroso Agrosilvopastoral System (classified as a world agricultural heritage site) and the Iberian wolf.

In the Covas do Barroso area, in the neighbouring municipality of Boticas, the Barroso mine, which the Savannah company wants to exploit, was the first lithium project in Portugal to obtain a favourable Environmental Impact Statement, which is also conditional.

This favourable conditional Environmental Impact Statement is “official recognition of the validity” of the mining project and refinery, said Ricardo Pinheiro, CEO of Lusorecursos, today – bypassing the fact that the refinery issue appears still far from settled.

Pinheiro described the decision as “a victory for Montalegre and for Lusorecursos“.

His opinion needless to say is not wholeheartedly endorsed by environmentalists, nor a hard-core of local people.

Armando Pinto, one of the founders of the association “Montalegre com Vida” (Montalegre with Life) told ECO online recently that his members believe the mine will be “an accelerator for desertification of the region which, at the moment, is in a situation of frank development. The area of the dam was seeing houses being restored for tourism, but investors now are pulling out because they have heard of the mine”.

Eco-associations like ZERO too are full of reservations, suggesting the relatively short time-span for the project is “very limited to bring people” to the region permanently. “This is an industry that requires specialised labour: workers will have to come from other parts of the country” a source for ZERO told ECO – Armando Pinto adding, “and they will leave every weekend…”

Whatever the truth, the situation today is what it is.

ECO’s comprehensive report concludes that dissenters still believe the mine will never happen: “There are various compensations written in” to APA’s go ahead. “But they are not sufficient to overcome the arguments against from the point of view of the population which continues to want the project far from its back hard.

We are convinced it will never happen. And we will do everything of everything” to ensure this outcome. “From APA and the government we don’t expect anything. But we can appeal to the national courts, and the European courts. We will not give up” guarantees Armando Pinto”.

Source material: LUSA/ ECO 

Portugal Resident