OPEN LETTER TO ASMAA SUPPORTERS AND THE BROADER COMMUNITY
ASMAA is best known for fighting oil and gas exploration using unconventional extraction technologies such as “Fracking” in Portugal for the past 8 years, and for promoting green energy technologies.
With ASMAA becoming involved in this new fight against “open-cast/open-pit/surface” Lithium mining in Portugal, it is understandable that people are confused and are questioning our reasons for doing so.
In this article I’ll endeavour to clarify our current position and the grounds that motivates our present stand point.
Before I embark on the reasons that motivated our decision, let’s take a look at some of the background.
During the 2017 fires in the centre of Portugal, some ASMAA representatives, including me, visited hundreds of affected locations. We were in Pedrogão, Arganil, Oliveira do Hospital, Seia, etc.. We chatted to the locals, fire fighters and local government leaders. We found ourselves not only emotionally devastated by the extension of the destruction but also by the information given to us that hundreds of fires broke-up simultaneously across extensive areas. Leading us to reach the conclusion that the fires had to be part of a well-planned and executed economic or even politically driven strategy.
Once back in the Algarve, the primary question in our mind was “what’s coming”?
Our thoughts fluctuated between increased mono eucalyptus plantations (with pulp industry behind it), to mining interests, and oil & gas exploration. Or all three!
A couple of weeks before the fires broke-up, I received via email a document highlighting possible mining targeted areas with their economic potential. I must confess that at the time, I just gave a superficial look at this document. But after the fires, one day when this document was nagging at the back of my mind, I asked one of my colleagues to do an overlap of burned areas against the proposed mining areas.
We were all surprised to see that there was massive overlapping.
But even then, and for extended period after, we still did not pursued it any further, mainly because all our resources were focused on fighting the proposed oil and gas exploration in the Algarve. But now and again my own thoughts would go back to it.
During my few occasions of spare time, I would find myself researching “Green Energy and its technologies” including the raw materials procurement processes. The more I researched the more concerned I was becoming. Because I started to realise that “Green” comes with lots of “Brown”. This led to many discussions and even some heated debates with various international experts that I respect and have great admiration for.
The "Giga Factory" period
We will need to go further back. In 2016, when it was brought to my attention that Elon Musk was looking for a venue for Tesla’s “Giga Factory” in Europe, I was excited about it, as personally I love the technology and their strategy of design for long-term use, rather than the prevalent design for failure within short timelines that is so common nowadays in most manufacturing processes. Yes, I knew that Lithium, and other minerals would need to be procured. But at the time, I did not give much though about the raw materials needed, nor about the mining extraction processes.
I managed to reach Elon Musk, and yes, he and his team were indeed considering Portugal. But once again, the lithium and all the other needed raw materials were not really given much consideration by any of us at ASMAA, as we continued with the legal battles against oil & gas exploration which were placing heavy demands on our team. The bottom line is that we were still very much pro “Green Energy Technologies”
But in spite of all the constraints and our leaning towards Green Energy, we were still researching.
The Awakenning period
Towards the middle of last year, and for the first time, we became aware that "open-pit/open-cast/surface" mining was on the cards. But even then, we were not aware of the magnitude of areas that would be directly affected.
Around June/July 2018 we came across a video in English, done by EDM, marketing Lithium Mining in Portugal to international investors. (Link here). In this video, there’s a few seconds of video footage illustrating the "open-pit/open-cast/surface" mining that would be used. Then the realisation set-in, that with opencast mining comes devastating environmental, social and economic impacts.
Adding to above, when the government published dozens of Mining request alerts within days of each other, it felt like the government was carpet-bombing any potential resistance to their exploration mining strategies, in an endeavour to stop any objections.
More than 250 areas have now been identified as being at risk, and approximately 60 businesses may have shown interest. This motivated us to give our attention to this risk, as it has now gone from orange warning to red alert.
We are talking about 1 831 420,6 hectares of our territory have not only lithium requests and applications for mining exploration and exploitation, but the requests and applications also cover other minerals such as: gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, tungsten, nickel, and other iron and associated minerals, of which 642 528,79 hectares are in the Beira region, and 31 578,07 hectares located in protected areas.
In addition, some exploration and exploitation contracts have already been awarded under very suspicious circumstances.
Since then, we have conducted extensive research, and we continue to research the impacts of this mining extraction process.
There’s lots more I could tell you, but for now let’s start by comparing Oil & Gas Unconventional Drilling Technology (Fracking) with Lithium Open-Cast/Open-pit/Surface mining extraction methods and processes and the impact on local communities, the environment and the local economy.
Are we, ASMAA now against "Green Technologies" as well as fossil fuels exploration (aka Fracking) in Portugal?
No! We are not against "Green Technologies", but we are against the irresponsible path that the Portuguese government is following.
Here’s the link to the article: Lithium extraction the new “Green Fracking” of our environment?