Lithium mines would put Douro’s World Heritage classification at risk
The Ministry of Environment has guaranteed that there will be “no mining prospecting or crude researching in the Alto Douro Wine Region”, an area of ??over 26,000 hectares classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Government’s position follows a prospecting request from Fortescue, an Australian mining company. The government’s promise is not, however, sufficient to reassure the Quercus environmental association.
“To say that prospecting in the World Heritage Site won’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t still occur on the outskirts of the Alto Douro Wine region, there is no reason to rest. Even if it is outside it can have an impact, particularly on wine quality,” said Paulo do Carmo, Quercus president, adding: “It may be outside the Heritage area. But how far? One kilometer, two? “
Fortescue has applied for “mineral deposit exploration rights” in an area of ??over 50,000 hectares in the municipalities of Alijó, Carrazeda de Ansiães, Sao Joao da Pesqueira, Sabrosa, Torre de Moncorvo, Vila Flor and Vila Nova de Foz Côa. Of these, only Vila Flor is not part of the World Heritage area.
The goal is to search for gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, lithium, tungsten, tin and other associated minerals. This week, ICOMOS, a UNESCO advisory organization, came out to highlight that “a substantial part of the projects put forward are for the Alto Douro wine region and its special protection zone”. If the government were ever grant explorations rights in this area, the organization would see these possible attacks on the environment as an “irreversible aggression” against World Heritage, which would imply destroying local vineyard culture and losing the title awarded by UNESCO back in 2001.