Portugal’s much-touted Barroso Lithium Project currently finds itself between a rock and a hard place, as farming communities around the site are vehemently protesting against the development.
The region in question is prime agricultural terrain and it has been continually farmed using traditional methods for generations. However, the placement of open-pit lithium mining facilities in the area is seen not only as a threat to a region that has been accorded Food and Agricultural Heritage status by the United Nations, but also as a threat to livelihood, health, and the environment.
Despite protests, Savannah Resources executives feel that the mines are a serious step forward to ensure lithium independence for the European Union. Based on estimates, the mines in Barroso could run for about fourteen years, producing enough lithium to power 500,000 electric vehicles annually.
Miners Not Welcome
The numbers, however, have not convinced residents of the village of Covas do Barroso of the benefit of the mines. Indeed, residents and those living within the municipality of Boticas where the village is located are fighting tooth and nail to keep big mining firms away from their land.
Farmer Aida Fernandes, president of the Baldios or common land association of the vicinity, declares that the four proposed mining pits bordering the village would destroy everything and that no one in the community wants the mining initiatives spearheaded by UK-headquartered mining firm Savannah Resources Plc to move forward.
As agriculture has been the lifeblood of the region for centuries, thanks to the excellence of locally farmed beef, dairy products, and olive oil, giving the land over for lithium mining would actually kill the regional economy.
Boticas mayor Fernando Queiroga, for one, opines that even if Savannah or any other lithium firm pays substantial sums to residents for their land, where would the people go and what could these companies offer to compensate for a lost way of life and the destruction of centuries of tradition. Indeed, Queiroga is in the process of presenting a legal challenge against approval of the mining initiative – and if the national government doesn’t give them the results they want, he and his people will not hesitate to make an appeal to the European Court.
The mayor and the Baldios aren’t the only ones taking up the cudgels for the land, either. The Roman Catholic parish council of Covas de Barroso has also filed an appeal against the mining project.