Subsidized electric cars for Brussels and Berlin through the exploitation of others, the destruction of nature and the environment, the extraction of other resources such as lithium in the UN World Heritage Site in northern Portugal.
Litium is used to make batteries in electric cars, smartphones and energy storage devices. Until now, the images of the devastating destruction of the environment and nature by the extraction 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 maintained mainly by 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 mountainous areas, streams and rivers with crystal clear water and a cultural landscape recognized by the UN with a small farming population that lives sustainably with their animals and nature in harmony and should actually be a model 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 that belongs to the UNO agricultural cultural heritage.
In this region of Portugal there is no industrial factory farming, 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, so 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 an unmistakable kamikaze course. The devastating forest fires in Australia by the conservative government promoting mining corporations and the promotion of fossil fuels like coal and factory farming are just a few examples and consequences of many that are driving homegrown climate change worldwide.
“They want to dig holes here, 150 meters deep and 600 meters wide. They won’t even be filled in afterwards, the landscape will remain destroyed forever. On top of that, we have the best and purest water in Portugal here. This would be hopelessly contaminated. They are simply going through with their plans without talking to us,” says Nelson Gomes, a farmer in his mid-40s, who founded a citizens’ initiative that the entire region has now joined in protesting against the project, including the district administrator responsible, Fernando Queiroga from the district town of Boticas. “All the expert reports from our district office are against the mine,” he says. “We are absolutely against it because of the serious environmental damage that is expected.”
Mining lithium in U.N. World Heritage Site.
“This agriculture there is unique and sustainable, has no environmental impact whatsoever,” says Pedro Santos of the Portuguese environmental organization Quercus, urging prudence. “On the contrary, it even ensures that native breeds of animals can survive.”
Local people who have lived on their own land and in their homes for generations now fear being dispossessed. What took place in the Hambach Forest in Germany with the support of Armin Laschet and the CDU, in favor of the mining concerees and the open pit lignite mining, is now to take place in the “poured style” subsidized on behalf of the EU Commission for lithium mining in Portugal.
Today, the Hambach Forest is considered a symbol of resistance against environmental destruction and climate damage by mining companies and the coal industry, as well as the imminent coal phase-out as part of the energy transition, which, however, is still not 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) has 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 groups such as the consortium “Savannah Ressources” based in London are to extract lithium.
“Gold digging mood” – mining companies from Australia, based in London, invade like “locusts” over Portugal 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 transition and the production of alternative energies in Germany.
In the subsidized demise at the expense of the population and the destruction of nature and the environment, the Germans are world champions and no role model for other countries in Europe, but should be especially for Portugal deterrent example.
So with what should the electric cars subsidized by the EU, with subsidized lithium drive? With nuclear power or power from fossil energy, which the CDU/CSU in Germany strongly supports? Who should buy the expensive subsidized electric cars? Rich and wealthy, the electric cars subsidized with EU citizens’ tax money? China, which now produces its own? The working population in Germany, which according to the World Wealth Report is one of the poorest populations in Europe? Through a policy of conservatives for decades for their own benefit and the profit of corporations, past the needs of the population, at the expense of the environment and nature.
Meanwhile, as the world tries 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
Some mining companies have already begun planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling all resources Savannah Resources has a license for Pires Boticas, while Portuguese mining company Lusorecursos has a license for nearby Montalegre, it said. The two areas are located in the Barroso region, a World Heritage Site.
Around 300 holes have already been drilled in the rocks, although the final mining permit from the government has not even been issued yet. A mine in which feldspar and quartz is mined has already existed for several years and has also already been taken over by the consortium. Thousands of wild Portuguese pine trees have already fallen victim to the consortium.
The mining companies are now awaiting approval from the government environmental agency in Portugal to proceed with their plans, which could include refining lithium to increase product quality.
The Savannah Resources consortium also has a 20% interest in the Mutamba Heavy minderal Sands Project in Mozambique and joint venture copper projects Block 4 and 5 in Oman. According to a CNBC report, in October 2019, the London-based consortium had held talks with several major European industrial groups, including automakers, to begin commercial lithium production in northern Portugal in 2021. “Savannah is in offtake and investment discussions 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 that Tesla “could get into the mining business” to improve its access to lithium, which is used in rechargeable electric car batteries, according to The Times. The billionaire Tesla chairman told shareholders that the company will “do everything to grow as fast as possible,” but that it doesn’t make sense to make new models without enough batteries: “That’s complexity, but without profit.” So for Tesla, the Brandenburg site in Germany is no coincidence, to build electric cars subsidized by the EU with lithium from Euroa.
Lithium reserves in Portugal are modest compared to Australia and Chile, the world’s largest lithium producers, but Portugal wants to follow Conservative leadership in Brussels and play a central role in Europe’s quest to reduce dependence on lithium imports. Developing European deposits of the “white gold” is an important part of the European Union’s drive to secure more battery value chains as the continent’s automakers roll out electric vehicles, a European Commission spokesman said.
“Even though lithium can be used to store renewable energy, it cannot be mined carelessly everywhere. There must be rules, especially when the planned mines are located in biotopes that must be preserved because of their special nature.” He said the project is oversized and the whole region would be massively changed: “The open-pit mining alone brings 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.
Geologist Prof. Carlos Leal Gomes is skeptical about the government’s lithium plans in Portugal: “If all this is implemented as the government and the consortium imagine, it will have very bad consequences for the terretory of northern Portugal and for the environment in general.” The deep holes that will be dug in the landscape will have an impact on groundwater, water sources and water cycles will be irretrievably destroyed, according to 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. (One ton of lithium salt requires 2 million liters of water.) In addition, he said, the rock itself contains substances that are hazardous to health, such as sulfides, or metal-sulfur compounds, which are washed out by the water, flow into the valley, run into the drinking water and thus become a danger to the health of the population. “Portugal is not exactly the ideal area for mining lithium, this is great nonsense a monumental stupidity,” said geologist Prof. Carlos Leal Gomes.
Residents fear the loss of their homes through expropriation, the poisoning of water, dust pollution, the end of their paradise.
Even now, before the opening of the mine, massive encroachments on nature can be seen and the population fears that the mine will cut off the population’s water. Summers are increasingly dry in Portugal due to climate change, and long periods of extreme water shortages are on the rise. In this region there is no public central water supply, everyone has their own source, which could also be contaminated by the lithium mining.
The inhabitants of Covas do Barroso are now getting support from other regions in Portugal that are also affected by lithium mining, are demonstrating in Lisbon and want to prevent their natural paradise from becoming a “hell on earth” with huge trucks and excavators driving into their villages, drilling huge holes in the earth and blasting away entire rocks with dynamite.
The otherwise very friendly, peaceful and reserved population is upset and angry.
The citizens’ initiative in the picturesque region also criticizes the lack of transaprenz and that the consortium does not take responsibility for the lithium extraction. Environmental damage has already been caused enough by the granite and now closed tungsten mines, they say, and 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 used to be, which was used for the production of ammunition during the Second World War.
The companies and corporations that make profit with it are not located in the affected communities, but in faraway Lisbon, Brussels, Berlin and other countries. Trás-os-Montes and the Barroso region have always been exploited and so it will be with the planned lithium mine, the population criticizes.
The population expressed their anger through protests to Secretary of State Galamba, who visited the region. Gambala has been bought by Brussels, the protesters claimed.
Secretary Galamba wants to promote subsidized lithium mining by the EU in Portugal for electric cars needed in Europe. The land where lithium is to be mined is no man’s land, he claimed of the region, which has a population of about 120,000. For Secretary of State João Galamba, there is no doubt: “Portugal has a long mining tradition. Lithium mining is now our chance to participate in the European Green Deal while expanding our industry.”
The protests by 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 willing to sacrifice the welfare of its own population and the future of the country. Supporting expropriation of the population, would make it more difficult for the Socialists to survive, who govern without a majority in Portugal.
“As a matter of principle: no villagers can have a veto on such projects,” says João Galamba. “These are national resources. 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 those affected should also get good compensation.”
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 disasters and home-made climate change and justifies his project with the usual killer arguments 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 village of Covas would have had bad luck, Galamba said.
The population is right, apparently this government let itself be “blinded” by the EU subsidies in Brussels, where the majority conservative Germans set the course, always in their own interest, the profit for corporations and as a permanent blocker in Brussels act, when it comes to implement laws for the population, environment and nature in the EU.
Does the government in Portugal overlook the fact that it allows itself to be used for the profits of corporations and interests of other EU countries and thus harms its own country and the population, exploits and betrays?
Lithium, in electric cars will never be an alternative and cleaner energy source, as long as 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 more than one of the many usual “marketing strategies” for their own profits and greenwashing for the automobile companies, as long as the energy turnaround, towards alternative sustainably produced, environmentally friendly energy, has not taken place, for which the further development of other alternatives such as fuel cells with hydrogen in the automotive industry would have to be used and found.
Electric cars are not an alternative, but a subsidized greenwashing consumer item, and new sales market for the automobile corporations that are based in Germany and lead to the next disaster and catastrophe. Subsidies for electric cars and the automobile corporations in Germany who, with the support of the German government, prevented functioning environmentally friendly catalytic converters from being put into the cars and cheated their customers.
The consequences of the policies of the conservatives and the federal government in Germany:
- Further irretrievably destroyed nature, species extinction, damaged environment through 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 Enegriewende, promotion of climate change, the prevention of a speed limit of 130 km/h that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traffic by 1.9 million tons of CO2 equivalents annually, nitrate-polluted waters due to over-fertilization and over-production 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 education system, the deliberate damage to democracy, a divided society and a homemade shift to the right as in Germany, where right-wing extremists again sit in the state parliaments and Bundestag, after decades of unscrupulous neoliberalism and cronyism 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 in the world, the country with the largest low-wage sector in the EU, and according to the World Wealth Report, the German population is among the poorest in Europe, unable to live on either their wages or their pensions. In Germany, the conservatives prevented for decades the minimum wage, which exists only since 2015, but from which the population can not live until today. Germany 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 animal cruelty. In 2019, the Commission initiated legal action against Germany in 17 cases.
Portugal was exemplary until now and on a good path, despite the imposed Troika by Wolfgang Scheuble with Angela Merkel (CDU) and even more austerity measures under which especially the population in Portugal suffers until today, without a shift to the right, with a stable, social democratic government that made policy for the people and was therefore elected by the people – and not because it supports corporations for short-term profit through subsidies from Brussels to destroy nature, the environment and the future of their own country.
Portugal should not let itself be used by other EU countries like Germany, for the profit of companies, betray the own population and also not become the garbage dump of Europe, where already now, also in the north of Portugal 30 km away from the tourist city Porto, the garbage from Europe is dumped – because China and other Asian countries refuse in the meantime to take the garbage from Germany.
Lithium mining by further exploitation of natural resources of this planet for a technology of batteries for electric cars, without energy transition with alternative, clean energy is neither environmentally friendly nor sustainable and not the solution to the continuing environmental, nature destruction and homemade climate change with further rising temperatures.
Astrid Ebenhoch, journalist and editor of Hounds & People.
The article in german: Proteste gegen Lithiumförderung in Portugal: “Nein zur Mine – ja zum Leben!”
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