Preliminary lithium environmental report identifies ‘certain risks’ – EURACTIV.com

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The preliminary environmental impact assessment report of the Lithium Prospecting and Exploration Program identified “some risks” in the eight potential zones in the north and center of the country, but still recognized the opportunity that this could have for decarbonization of the economy.

According to the evaluation, the Lithium Research and Exploration Program (PPPLítio) “Is an opportunity… to decarbonise the economy and pursue the energy transition strategy.

The Lithium Working Group said there has been an increase in demand for lithium largely due to the importance of this metal, not only in technology, but especially for its use in electric vehicle batteries. , and justified by the circumstance that Portugal has geological conditions strongly favorable to the presence of lithium minerals, ”he explained.

However, the report also states that geological and mining knowledge in the various lithiferous potential areas is “inconsistent and incomplete”, making prospecting and research “more relevant and necessary”.

“When the practice of these research activities, for the most part non-invasive, is carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner, it makes it possible to derive many benefits while causing minimal damage to the environment,” he notes.

Among several proposed measures, the document highlights the development of a documentation plan, the establishment of accessible complaint mechanisms to manage potential conflicts and the promotion of joint actions to follow up exploration activities between the General Directorate of Energy and Geology (DGEG) and other entities. .

For the tender, the environmental report of the PPPLítio warned that areas of greater urban, functional and demographic intensity should be excluded from prospecting operations.

According to the document, local suppliers and labor should also be favored in the different activities, not affecting archaeological or architectural occurrences classified with heritage value, warning that intervention in the basement should be minimized in a band of at least 300 meters around the respective water. line.

“Companies that conduct exploration and research activities must present a water efficiency and protection plan for potentially affected water resources. The best available techniques must be used to minimize possible impacts, ”he noted.

The report also adds that “prospecting and exploration can have effects on the quality of the environment” and of water in particular, but that the “great majority” of mining activities “do not generate impacts on the environment”. local and regional water and hydrogeological resources. ”.

“If they exist, they represent a very low risk for the environment and society,” he concludes.

The DGEG put the preliminary environmental assessment report of the lithium prospecting and exploration program in the eight potential zones for public consultation on Tuesday for the launch of a call for tenders procedure until November 10.

The preliminary environmental assessment report analyzed eight zones in the north and center of the country: Arga (Viana do Castelo), Seixoso-Vieiros (Braga, Porto and Vila Real), Massueime (Guarda), Guarda – Mangualde (four zones spread over Guarda, Viseu, Castelo Branco and Coimbra) and Segura (Castelo Branco).

The government has decided to carry out an environmental impact study in order to allocate prospecting and exploration rights for lithium in eight zones instead of the 11 envisaged in the initial list.

“In the first phase, sites were identified where it is believed that there are lithium deposits,” an official from the Ministry of the Environment told Lusa. These consist of 11 zones, as announced in October by the executive.

“Areas with environmental protection status have been removed from the original list,” added the official, referring to areas classified as reserves or nature parks.

Prospecting activities aim to discover the existence of lithium ore deposits, their quantities and the economic viability of their extraction, but exclude areas with environmental protection status or already subject to environmental protection. environmental impact study.

According to the government, the call for tenders for the allocation of prospecting and exploration rights for lithium – after carrying out a strategic environmental assessment – “will allow the installation of reference industrial projects and the creation of poles of research and development in the field of batteries. “

Meanwhile, the environmental association Quercus warned on Wednesday that 28% of the areas allocated for lithium exploration are inside nationally protected areas.

“It’s a shame that the government continues to insist on the lithium exploration plan. And here in the region [district of Castelo Branco], we will fight until the last consequences, with the inhabitants ”, declared Samuel Infante de Quercus to the Lusa news agency.

“We are talking about areas that the Portuguese state is committed to protecting and safeguarding and which have unique conservation values ​​and development models,” said Quercus.

In the Castelo Branco district, Infante said the program involved the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, the Serra da Gardunha, the International Tagus Natural Park (PNTI) and the Naturtejo Geopark Meridional Meseta Geopark (Global Geopark of UNESCO).

“We are talking about areas of high conservation value. The environmental assessment itself identifies these areas and has identified more than 116 species of conservation interest, ie species that are in danger of extinction and that exist in these areas ”, a- he added.

Infante reiterated that “it makes no sense” to insist on this type of “heavy, destructive and contaminating industry when Portugal is not a major player” in this area.

“All activities have positive and negative impacts. But in this case, clearly, the disadvantages outweigh the possible economic advantages, ”he also said.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]


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