A new & # 39; gold rush & # 39; does the Pyrenees vibrate

The ghost of mining around the Catalan Pyrenees. Several projects are trying to open up to the extraction of materials such as Wolframi, also known as tungsten and suspect in the electronics industry and the smartphones – or gold and cobalt. The initiative that raises more controversy is the request for research into tungsten and gold that has been carried out for several months in Pallars Sobirà on Alt Àneu. The project includes perforations up to 150 meters deep near the forest path of the port of Salau, in an area of ​​almost 30 square kilometers and is usually located in the Alt Pirineu Park, an area protected.

The purpose of the driving force, Neometal Spania, is to know the quantity and characteristics of the material that is in the ground for future exploitation, underlined by the Ministry of Enterprise and Knowledge, and insists that it should be , with small perforations. However, the possibility that the project can go further has revolted against the neighbors of Isil and Alós – the district to which the area belongs – and other villages in the region that oppose the possibility of making them work.

After months of conversations and mobilisations, the Salvem Salau platform has lived as a "small victory" the fact that the Ministry of Territory has increased the requirement to Neometal, which must present a much more extensive environmental impact report than initially asked. "It is not enough with a simplified assessment, with the characteristics of the project, the location, the capacity to load the environment and the potential impact," explained the department. For one of the spokespersons of the platform, Ricard Castellarnau, this can slow down processing, but it is only "a patch". What he has to do, he says, is to develop the pending protection plan in the area – integrated into the Natura 2000 network – to prevent these projects from being even increased.

Castellarnau sees in the proposal of Neometal Spania – a subsidiary in Spain of the Australian multinational Apollo Minerals – a "speculative movement" because advertising for the project in the Pyrenees "increases the price of metal and the actions and makes it profitable to farms to open that were not up to now. "

In fact, the French subsidiary of the same mining company has already begun exploration work on the other side of the border. In the French part of the port of Salau, there is an old scheelite mine – mineral formed from tungsten and calcium – that was exploited until the mid-1980s. "It generated innumerable problems of pollution and health, the metal was not enough appreciated and therefore abandoned ", explains Joan Vázquez, spokesman for the environmental organization Ipcena.

Looking for cobalt

However, the Alto Pirineo file is not the only one at the Generalitat table. The Ministry of Enterprise and Knowledge is about to approve an application to investigate cobalt in the Baix Pallars area. Initially it was canceled due to a lack of information, but now it seems that the company has presented everything that was needed to start the procedure and see if it can continue or not, company. There is a third project, in this case in the municipalities of Balaguer, Térmens and Menàrguens, to look for gold, which is currently being processed.

The UB research professor Manel Viladevall, who is now retired, sees many doubts in the mining initiatives that are being conducted in the Pyrenees. As for the search for tungsten in Pallars Sobirà, remember that currently the main producer and the largest reserves of this mineral are found in China – "what is in the subsurface doubles that what all other countries add together" -. Despite recognizing that it is a material with a demand that grows every year and grows at a high price, it thinks it seems to compete with giants like China is "dement".

Viladevall also points to the landscape risks that can lead to the revival of mining in an area that is currently one of its economic motors in the tourism sector. "The impact exists, because of everything that is extracted from a mine, advantage of 5%," warns. In search of gold in the Balaguer region, the expert explains that "it is known" that there is gold and can be found, but doubts economic viability and sees the project as "ghostly".

The Catalan Ombudsman is already examining the Alt Àneu project for the complaints it received, mainly because of the environmental factor. The College of Technical Engineers and Degree in Mines and Energy of Catalonia and the Balearics, for its part, defended a few months ago that mining is an activity "as old as humanity" and said that all exploitation of "A site, even in the Pyrenees, "is possible if things are going well. "For this reason, he also asked for transparency for companies that have applied for permits.

The requests, now from the first investigation, hide "a trap", condemning the deputy of the Congress of In general Can Jaume Moya. "Once the permit has been granted, if it is positive and the mineral is found, the applicant is entitled to an exploitation request that is no longer granted by the Generalitat, but by the state, which is why the Communes and the CUP are resolution because it will soon be voted in Parliament to ban mining activities in protected areas such as the Alt Pirineu Park.

Moreover, we can work in the congress on the reform of the mining law, which dates from the Franco era. A change, he argues, could help stop the "mining boom" that lives not only in Catalonia but also in other parts of the state.