The announcement by the General Directorate of Energy and Geology was published in Diário da República on 2 April and makes public that PANN, Consultores de Geociência, Lda., requested the signing of a concession contract for the exploration of lithium, tin mineral deposits, tantalum, niobium, tungsten, rubidium, copper, lead, zinc, gold, silver, cesium, scandium, rare earths and pyrites, for an area called “Argemela”, located in the parishes of Coutada and Barco, in the municipality of Covilhã, and in the parishes of Silvares and Lavacolhos, in the municipality of Fundão, district of Castelo Branco.
The request covers an area of 403.7 hectares and stems from a 2017 notice, which has already motivated many complaints and opposition from the local population and municipalities.
In the current procedure, it is stated that all interested parties must comment within 30 days from the date of publication of the notice.
Signed by the director-general of the General Directorate of Energy and Geology, the order is dated 10 March and was published in the Diário da República on 2 April, with the information that the process can be consulted “within office hours “, in the Directorate of Strategic Services and Promotion of Geological Resources of the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology, in Lisbon.
A situation that the Group for the Preservation of Serra da Argemela (GPSA) has already repudiated, underlining the fact that public consultation is scheduled for the time when the country faces restrictions imposed by the state of emergency and the mandatory confinement rules that dictate that contacts are reduced to the essential.
In a statement sent to the Lusa news agency and to which it gave the title “Covid-19 accelerates mining fever in Portugal?”, GPSA classifies this situation as “unbelievable”, stressing that it reveals “lack of humanism and understanding by the most elementary ethical principles that should govern a society”.
“What harm would come to the world if this publicity were postponed to a more opportune date? In compliance with the aforementioned Law, the measures of which had already been announced and discussed, at least since the Council of Ministers of 12 March, the postponement would not even have been an imperative?” asks this entity, which has been contesting the possible mining operation in Argemela.
GPSA also recalls that the process has been going on for some time and that “complaints have already been made, taking into account the knowledge of the location, elevation, proximity to villages and the Zêzere River”, which pointed out “serious health and well-being consequences for the population”.
The process for the mining concession for a farm in Serra da Argemela started in 2011, and in early 2017, the request for the granting of a concession by the company PANN - Consultores de Geociência Lda was published.
After that, local population and mayors have protested against the possible mining exploitation and political parties have also been taking positions to support the population.
In April 2017, in response to questions raised by the socialist deputies elected by the Castelo Branco circle, the Government guaranteed that it will hear “populations and municipalities covered before making any decision”.
In March 2018, the Assembly of the Republic unanimously approved a recommendation to the Government to suspend the process until there is a “thorough assessment of the situation for a new pronunciation”.
At the beginning of 2019 it became known that the company that applied for the mining concession also submitted a request for “experimental exploration”, which was unsuccessful, without calling into question the progress of the application for the 400 hectares, which will oblige the presentation of an Environmental Impact Study.