Subsidized electric cars for Brussels and Berlin through the exploitation of others, the destruction of nature and the environment, the exploitation of other resources such as the mining of lithium in the UN World Heritage Site in northern Portugal.
Lithium is used to make batteries in electric cars, smart phones and energy storage devices. Until now, the images of the devastating destruction of the environment and nature by the mining of lithium and cobalt for the profit of Western corporations with the support of conservative governments, were far away, now this destruction with consequences for the population nature and environment is taking place on the doorstep in Portugal, in Europe.
Portugal is one of the last countries in Europe with intact beautiful nature and environment, which is mainly preserved through the commitment of the population. Like the region of Trás-os-Montes, in the district of Vila Real in the extreme northeast of Portugal, a paradise with unique nature, hilly mountains, streams and rivers with crystal clear water and a cultural landscape with a small farming population recognized by the UNO, which lives sustainably with its animals and nature in harmony and should actually be an example and goal for Europe.
The people are proud of their nature, lead a simple life in this region and want it to stay that way. A life with the famous Baroso cattle and the beautiful nature which belongs to the UNO agricultural cultural heritage.
In this region in Portugal there is no industrial mass animal husbandry, no over-fertilization of the soil, no contamination of the ground water, no use of pesticides and insecticides in conventional agriculture and destruction of nature, environment, i.e. the own livelihood for overproduction and unscrupulous profit of the corporations with the support of the conservative government – as in Germany and Australia, which are on a highly visible kamikaze course. The devastating forest fires in Australia caused by the conservative government, which promotes mining companies and the extraction of fossil fuels such as coal and factory farming, are just a few examples and consequences of many that are driving home-made climate change worldwide.
“They want to dig holes here, 150 meters deep and 600 meters wide. They won’t even fill them in afterwards, the landscape will be destroyed forever. On top of that, we have the best and purest water in Portugal here. That would be hopelessly polluted. They simply go ahead with their plans without talking to us,” says Nelson Gomes, farmer in his mid-40s, who founded a citizens’ initiative that the entire region has now joined and is protesting against the project, including the responsible district administrator Fernando Queiroga from the district capital of Boticas. “All the expert opinions of our district office speak out against the mine,” he says. “We are absolutely against it because of the expected serious environmental damage.”
Mining of lithium in the UN world cultural heritage
“This agriculture there is unique and sustainable, and has no harmful effects on the environment,” says Pedro Santos of the Portuguese environmental protection organization Quercus, urging prudence. “On the contrary, it even ensures that indigenous animal breeds can survive.
The population, which has lived on its own land and in its own houses for generations, is now afraid of being expropriated. What took place in the Hambach Forest in Germany with the support of Armin Laschet and the CDU, in favor of the mining companies and the lignite open-cast mining, is now to take place in a “cast-iron style” subsidized on behalf of the EU Commission for Lithium Production in Portugal.
Today, the Hambach Forest is regarded as a symbol of resistance to environmental destruction and climate damage by the mining companies and coal industry, as well as the imminent coal phase-out as part of the energy turnaround, which, however, has not yet been implemented in Germany.
This region in Portugal in the UN World Heritage Site is now in danger since the EU Commission under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) decided to promote and subsidize lithium for electric cars in Europe and thus the destruction of nature. With the support of the government in Portugal, mining companies like the consortium “Savannah Resources” based in London are to promote lithium.
“Gold digger mood” – Mining companies from Australia, based in London, are invading Portugal like “locusts” to destroy the next country, the next nature and environment, after the conservatives in Brussels distribute subsidies for the “Green Deal” as usual with the watering can, but in return prevent and block the energy turnaround and the production of alternative energies in Germany.
In subsidized demise at the expense of the population and the destruction of nature and the environment, the Germans are world champions and not a model for other countries in Europe, but should be a deterrent example, especially for Portugal.
So what are the electric cars subsidized by the EU to drive with subsidized lithium? With nuclear power or electricity from fossil fuels, which the CDU/CSU is campaigning for in Germany? Who will buy the expensive subsidized electric cars? The rich and wealthy, the electric cars subsidized with the tax money of EU citizens? China, which now produces its own cars? The working population in Germany, which according to the World Wealth Report is one of the poorest in Europe? By a policy of the conservatives over decades to their own advantage and the profit of the companies, past the needs of the population, at the expense of the environment and nature.
While the world is trying to phase out fossil fuels, dozens of mining companies such as Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group have applied for nearly 100 licenses to explore for lithium in Portugal, according to The Guardian
Savannah Resources has a license for Pires Boticas and the Portuguese mining company Lusorecursos has a license for nearby Montalegre. The two areas are located in the Barroso region, a World Heritage Site.
About 300 holes have already been drilled into the rocks, although the final mining permit from the government has not yet been issued. A mine in which feldspaat and quartz is mined has been in existence for several years and has also been taken over by the consortium. Thousands of wild Portuguese pines have already fallen victim to the consortium.
The mining companies are now awaiting approval from the Portuguese State Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with plans that may include refining lithium to enhance product quality.
The Savannah Ressources consortium also holds a 20% interest in the Mutamba Heavy minderal Sands Project in Mozambique and joint venture copper projects Blocks 4 and 5 in Oman. According to a report by CNBC, in October 2019, the London-based consortium held talks with several major European industrial groups, including car manufacturers, to start commercial lithium production in northern Portugal in 2021. “Savannah is in discussions about acceptance and investment with a number of major European industrial groups, including automakers, and with a number of other international groups,” the company said.
Elon Musk announced in June 2019, according to The Times, that Tesla could “enter the mining business” to improve its access to lithium used in rechargeable electric car batteries. The billionaire and Tesla chairman told shareholders that the company “will do everything it can to grow as quickly as possible,” but that there was no point in producing new models without enough batteries: “That’s complexity, but no profit. For Tesla, the location of Brandenburg in Germany is therefore no coincidence, to build electric cars subsidized by the EU with lithium from Euroa.
The lithium reserves in Portugal are modest compared to Australia and Chile, the world’s largest lithium producers, but Portugal wants to follow the conservative leadership in Brussels and play a central role in Europe’s efforts to reduce its dependence on lithium imports. The development of European deposits of the “white gold” is an important part of the European Union’s efforts to secure more value chains for batteries as the continent’s automakers roll out electric vehicles,” said a European Commission spokesperson.
“Even if lithium can be used to store renewable energy, it must not be mined carelessly everywhere. There must be rules, especially if the planned mines are located in biotopes that must be preserved because of their special nature”. The project is oversized and the entire region would be massively changed: “Open-cast mining alone creates major problems. A huge crater would be created in which entire mountain ranges would disappear. This would have catastrophic consequences for the landscape and nature,” says the environmental protection organization Quercus.
Der Geologe Prof. Carlos Leal Gomes betrachtet die Lithium-.Pläne der Regierung in Portugal mit Skepsis: “Wenn das alles so umgesetzt wird wie die Regierung und das Konsortium sich das vorstellen, dann wird das sehr schlimme Auswirkungen auf das Terretorium Nord-Portugals und auf die Umwelt allgemein haben.” Die tiefen Löcher die in die Landschaft gegraben werden, hätten Auswirkungen auf das Grundwasser, die Wasserquellen und die Wasserkreisläufe würden unwiderbringlich zerstört, so der Wissenschaftler Carlos Leal Gomes.
Für ein kg Lithium müsste etwa 1 Tonne Gestein zerkleinert und ausgewaschen werden, unter Einsatz von höchst aggressiven Chemikalien. (Für eine tonne Lithiumsalz wird 2 Millionen Liter Wasser benötigt) Hinzu kommt, dass in dem Gestein selbst gesundheitsgefährdende Stoffe wie Sulfide, also Metall-Schwefel-Verbingungen, enthalten seien, die durch das Wasser ausgewaschen, in das Tal fliessen, in das Trinkwasser laufen und damit zu einer Gefahr für die Gesundheit der Bevölkerung würde. “Portugal ist nicht gerade das ideale Gebiet für den Abbau von Lithium, das ist grosser Unsinn eine monumentale Dummheit,” so der Geologe Prof. Carlos Leal Gomes.
Die Bewohner fürchten durch Enteignung den Verlust ihrer Heimat, die Vergiftung des Wassers, Staubbelastung, das Ende ihres Paradies.
Bereits jetzt vor der Eröffnung der Mine sind massive Eingriffe in die Natur erkennbar und die Bevolkerung befürchtet, dass die Mine der Bevölkerung das Wasser abgräbt. Die Sommer sind in Portugal durch den Klimawandel immer trockener, lange Perioden mit extremen Wassermangel nehmen zu. In dieser Region gibt es keine öffentliche, zentrale Wasserversorgung, jeder hat seine eigene Quelle, die durch die Lithiumförderung ebenfalls verseucht werden könnten.
Die Bewohnter von Covas do Barroso bekommem inzwischen Unterstützung von anderen Regionen in Portugal die ebenfalls von dem Lithiumabbau betoffen sind, demonstrieren in Lissabon und wollen verhindern, dass ihr Natur-Paradies zu einer “Hölle auf Erden” durch riesige Lkw s und Bagger wird, die in ihre Dörfer fahren, riesige Löcher in die Erde bohren und ganze Felsen mit Dynamit weggesprengt werden.
The geologist Prof. Carlos Leal Gomes is skeptical about the lithium plans of the government in Portugal: “If all this is implemented as the government and the consortium imagine it, it will have a very bad impact on the northern Portuguese territory and on the environment in general”. The deep holes dug in the landscape will have an impact on the groundwater, water sources and water cycles will be irreversibly destroyed, according to the scientist Carlos Leal Gomes.
For one kg of lithium, about 1 ton of rock would have to be crushed and washed out, using highly aggressive chemicals. (2 million liters of water are needed for one ton of lithium salt) In addition, the rock itself contains substances that are hazardous to health, such as sulfides, i.e. metal-sulfur compounds, which are washed out by the water, flow into the valley, enter the drinking water and thus become a danger to the health of the population. “Portugal is not exactly the ideal area for the mining of lithium, which is great nonsense a monumental stupidity,” says geologist Prof. Carlos Leal Gomes.
The inhabitants fear the loss of their home through expropriation, the poisoning of the water, dust pollution, the end of their paradise.
Even before the opening of the mine, massive interventions in nature are already visible and the population fears that the mine will dig up the water of the population. The summers in Portugal are increasingly dry due to climate change, and long periods of extreme water shortages are on the increase. In this region there is no public, centralized water supply, everyone has their own spring, which could also be contaminated by lithium production.
The inhabitants of Covas do Barroso are now receiving support from other regions in Portugal, which are also drunk from the lithium mining, are demonstrating in Lisbon and want to prevent their natural paradise from becoming a “hell on earth” by huge trucks and excavators driving into their villages, drilling huge holes in the earth and blowing away whole rocks with dynamite.
The otherwise very friendly, peaceful and reserved population is upset and angry.
The citizens’ initiative in the picturesque region also complains about the lack of Transaprenz and that the consortium is not taking responsibility for lithium production. Environmental damage has already been caused enough by the granite and now closed tungsten mines, the quarries have already left gaping wounds in the landscape in many places. The granite is still exported to Germany today, just like the tungsten that was used to manufacture ammunition during the Second World War.
The companies and corporations that make a profit from it are not located in the affected communities, but rather in distant Lisbon, Brussels, Berlin and other countries. Trás-os-Montes and the Barroso region have always been exploited, and the same will be true for the planned lithium mine, the population criticizes.
The population expressed their anger through the protests against Secretary of State Galamba who visited the region. Gambala had been bought by Brussels, the demonstrators claimed.
Secretary of State Galamba wants to push the subsidized lithium production by the EU in Portugal for electric cars needed in Europe. The country in which lithium is to be mined is no man’s land, he claims of the region where about 120,000 people live. For State Secretary João Galamba there is no doubt: “Portugal has a long mining tradition. The mining of lithium is now our chance to participate in the European Green Deal and at the same time to expand our industry”.
The protests of the population are putting pressure on the minority government in Portugal, which with its plan to become the “big player” in lithium in Europe is prepared to sacrifice the welfare of its own people and the future of the country. Supporting the expropriation of the population would make the survival of the socialists, who rule without a majority in Portugal, more difficult.
“As a matter of principle, no village population can have a veto right on such projects,” says João Galamba. “They are national raw materials. The government does want to educate the local population and inform them about the project. Of course, environmental damage must be avoided or kept as low as possible. And the people affected should also receive good returns.
Galamba sounds like a typical German conservative politician of the CDU/CSU who still tells fairy tales to the population in the 21st century of natural catastrophes and home-made climate change and uses the usual killer arguments to justify his project with the fact that European subsidies would flow, fossil fuels would be reduced, jobs would be created and a sustainable future technology would be promoted. The small paradise of Barroso would have to make certain sacrifices and the inhabitants of the small village of Covas would have been unlucky, said Galamba.
The population is right, apparently this government has let itself be “blinded” by the EU subsidies in Brussels, where the majority of conservative Germans set the course, always in their own interest, the profit for corporations and acting as a permanent blocker in Brussels when it comes to implementing laws for the population, environment and nature in the EU.
Is the government in Portugal overlooking the fact that it allows itself to be used for the profits of corporations and interests of other EU countries, thus damaging, exploiting and betraying its own country and its population?
Lithium, in electric cars will never be an alternative and cleaner energy source as long as the resources of this planet continue to be plundered, nature destroyed, the environment damaged and the population exploited.
The so-called “Grean Deal” of the conservative Ursula von der Layeen (CDU) in the EU is nothing else but one of the many usual “marketing strategies” for the own profits and greenwashing for the automobile companies, as long as the energy turn towards alternative sustainable and environmentally friendly energy has not taken place, which would also require the further development of other alternatives such as fuel cells with hydrogen in the automobile industry.
Electric cars are not an alternative, but a subsidized greenwashing consumer product, and a new sales market for the automobile corporations that are sitting in Germany and are leading to the next disaster and catastrophe. Subsidies for electric cars and the automobile companies in Germany which, with the support of the German government, prevented functioning environmentally friendly catalytic converters from being put in the cars and cheating their customers.
The consequences of conservative and federal government policies in Germany:
- Further irreversibly destroyed nature, extinction of species, damaged environment by the use of glyphosate and other pesticides promoted by the CDU/CSU in the EU in favor of chemical companies like Bayer, the prevention of the agricultural turnaround, the prevention of the energy turnaround, promotion of climate change the prevention of a speed limit of 130 km/h that would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of transport by 1.9 million tons of CO2 equivalents annually, the prevention of nitrate-polluted waters due to over-fertilization and overproduction from factory farming for the export and profit of the corporations Promotion of cruelty to animals, suffering for animals and poverty for the population, a disastrous educational system, the deliberate damage to democracy, a divided society and a home-grown shift to the right as in Germany, where right-wing extremists are once again sitting in the state parliaments and the Bundestag, after decades of unscrupulous neoliberalism and nepotism with corporations and the rich, through the exploitation of nature, animals and their own people.
- After the USA, Germany is the country with the most billionaires and rich people worldwide, the country with the largest low wage sector in the EU and according to the World Wealth Report, the German population is one of the poorest in Europe, who can live neither on their wages and salaries nor on their pensions. In Germany, the conservatives prevented the minimum wage for decades, which has only been in place since 2015, but which the population is still unable to live on. Germany is the EU country with the most infringement proceedings and lawsuits for violations of EU regulations, such as for contaminated groundwater by nitrate from factory farming for decades and cruelty to animals. In 2019 the Commission initiated legal action against Germany in 17 cases.
Portugal has been exemplary and on the right track so far, without a swing to the right, with a stable, social democratic government that made politics for the people and was therefore elected by the people – and not because it supports corporations to destroy nature, environment and the future of its own country for short-term profit through subsidies from Brussels.
So Portugal should not let itself be used by other EU countries like Germany for the profit of corporations, betray its own population and not become the garbage dump of Europe, where already now, also in the north of Portugal, 30 km away from the tourist city Porto, garbage from Europe is dumped – because China and other Asian countries refuse to take the garbage from Germany.
The lithium mining by further exploitation of natural resources of this planet for a technology of batteries for electric cars, without energy turnaround with alternative, clean energy is neither environmentally friendly nor sustainable and not the solution to the ongoing environmental, natural destruction and home-made climate change with further increasing temperatures.
Astrid Ebenhoch is jorunalist and editor of Hounds & People
The article in german: Proteste gegen Lithiumförderung in Portugal: “Nein zur Mine – ja zum Leben!”
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