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Environmentally harmful extraction of lithium and natural raw materials

Open-pit lithium mines are planned in the Barroso region in northern Portugal due to the green transformation and the demand for this metal in Europe. At the same time, Barroso is the only region in Portugal – and one of eight in Europe – recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as an agricultural heritage system of global importance, which combines landscape values, biodiversity of crops and livestock, ecosystems and cultural heritage.

In Barroso, on the border of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the British company Savannah Resources intends to build the largest open-pit lithium mine in Western Europe (840 ha of land). As is Barroso’s biodiversity, mining initiatives concern residents whose livelihoods are at risk. In turn, Lusorecursos company obtained permission to open a lithium mine in the Gerês-Xurés cross-border biosphere reserve.

The UN report shows that global extraction of raw materials will increase by 60% by 2060, which will have disastrous consequences for the climate and the environment. Since 1970, due to industrialisation, urbanisation and population growth, the extraction of natural resources has increased by almost 400%. It is now responsible for 60% of the effects of global warming, including land use change, 40% of air pollution, over 90% of global water scarcity and loss of land-related biodiversity. Moreover, according to the report, Europeans’ average annual material footprint is 15 tons per person. The Finns have the most significant material footprint (46 t per capita) and the smallest – the inhabitants of Malta (7 t per capita).

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