In the new decree-law that regulates the exploitation of mineral resources on public soil, the protection of classified areas, such as those that make up the Natura Network, is only guaranteed “whenever possible”, which is considered to not be enough for Zero.

“This is a situation that does not guarantee any safeguard”, says the association in a statement, noting that the Minister of the Environment had already guaranteed that “there would be no prospecting and research of lithium in classified areas”, but the new legislation “is not clear at this point.”

Zero accused the Government of wanting to have “political control over municipalities” by stating in the decree-law that concessionaires who want to explore the ores must contribute to the Environmental Fund to finance projects in the municipalities where the mines are located.

Also, “projects that especially benefit the populations closer to the mine” can be financed, which, in the association’s opinion, “leaves openness to investments that may not result in a benefit for the populations that will be most affected.

“This discretion regarding the type of financeable projects and clear political control may not result in capital gains for the populations that are affected by the exploitation of geological resources”, considers Zero.

For Zero, “a more ambitious legislation proposal” is needed, with more participation from society and a “clear and active involvement of entities with competences in the area of the environment and nature conservation in all processes.”

For example, “the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests must be consulted in advance” to ensure concession rights, whether for prospecting and research or exploration, even if the projects are outside classified areas, and any unfavourable opinion must be binding, the environmentalists argue.

They also consider that the Portuguese Environment Agency and the Regional Development and Coordination Commissions must be “involved in all the processes for granting concession rights”.

Zero also wants to see “other actors in society” involved in the awarding of concessions, without forgetting “the existing populations and conflicts”, defending a strategy that “is not only the dilapidating aspect of geological resources”.