Legal kerfuffle in Spain around uranium mine environmental assessment

Spain's National Audience dismissed a series of allegations presented by Berkeley Energia (ASX:BKY) against a legal action filed by a group of environmentalists who oppose the company's Salamanca uranium project.

The open-pit mine is the London/Salamanca-based miner's flagship project and is located on the Retortillo-Santidad uranium deposit near the town of Retortillo, in northwestern Spain.

Back in April 2016, members of Ecologistas en Acción and the political party Equo started a legal process alleging that Berkeley's environmental assessment failed to report that the uranium processing activities and nuclear debris disposal at the mine could potentially cause health problems to the residents of surrounding towns.

Such accusations were refuted by the company in a document presented before the National Audience on September 22, 2017. According to EFE news agency, Berkeley stated that their environmental assessment was solid, could not be challenged in any court and, thus, the Audience should ignore the activists' allegations.

But judges from the Audience’s Administrative Litigation Office considered Berkeley's arguments were not strong enough and were also identical to those presented before by the Attorney General before the National Audience, which were also dismissed.

Ecologistas en Acción and Equo say this legal development favours their cause. However, in an email statement to MINING.com, Berkeley said that the dismissal of the allegations is purely an administrative matter.

“The Company and its legal advisors remain strongly of the view that these claims [those of the activists], which have already been dismissed by lower Authorities, have absolutely no foundation and have been lodged solely for the purpose of gaining media coverage. Our experience with the previous claims was that in the build-up to the claims, the Opposition groups made lots of noise, however, when the claims were dismissed, they moved onto the next claim and started the process again.”

Beyond this legal kerfuffle, the uranium project was also a topic of debate this week at the Castilla y León Legislature. According to Europa Press, the spokesman for the regional branch of the leftist Podemos Party, Pablo Fernández, accused the provincial government of "laying a red carpet" -or making things easy- for Berkeley, so that the miner gets the approvals it needs to start operations at the Retortillo site.

However, the president of the Castilla and León government, Juan Vicente Herrera, replied to Fernández saying that he is not either in favour or against the mine and that all he wants is that everything related to the project is done in accordance with the law.