An activist group called Plataforma Stop Uranio (Stop Uranium Platform) is calling for a protest action to be held on October 30, 2016 in the town of Retortillo, located in Spain’s western province of Salamanca.
According to La Vanguardia newspaper, the group opposes the development of Berkeley Resources’ Retortillo mine, which is part of the company’s flagship Salamanca uranium project.
Activists are planning to gather at the company’s headquarters with the idea of expressing their disapproval towards the open-pit project which, they say, would affect nearby farms and hot springs, as well as residents’ health.
“The worst part is the environmental damage that’s being caused in the area, which has been declared a protected Red Natura 2000 zone by Castilla and León authorities. Centenary oaks are being uprooted in order to build a road, despite the miner’s promise to transplant them,” their statement reads.
Tensions have been boiling over since October 18, 2016, when the City of Retortillo declared a couple of members from the Stop Uranium Platform as personas non gratas, due to their activities against the mine.
Also last week, the Portuguese group Os Verdes de Portugal (Portugal’s Greens) held public assemblies to discuss the possible effects of the Salamanca uranium project in the bordering municipalities of Guarda and Freixo de Espada a Cinta.
Together with representatives from the Stop Uranium Platform, Os Verdes de Portugal expressed concerns about the consequences of radioactive resource exploitation for the Yeltes and Douro rivers, which support farming operations in the area.
The Retortillo-Santidad uranium deposit is expected to produce an average of 4.4 million pounds of uranium per year. Berkeley’s mining licence for the site is valid for an initial period of 30 years, renewable for two further periods of 30 years.
The Australian company states on its website that it has developed “a good neighbour and business partner relationship with the local community.” Nevertheless, according to the local press, people from adjacent towns seem to be divided in terms of their support towards the project.
In an email statement in response to this story, Berkeley Energia’s Managing Director, Paul Atherley said: “Berkeley has invested US$60m in the last 10 years in the development of what will be Europe’s largest producer of uranium, the fuel required for nuclear energy, the most efficient low carbon generator of electricity in the world.
The Salamanca Project will provide over 450 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs in an area, which has seen crippling unemployment following the ceasing of previous mining activities, and adheres to the highest EU environmental and safety standards, regarded as the most rigorous in the world.
The mine has overwhelming support from not only the EU, as nuclear energy provides over half of the continent’s low-carbon electricity, but also from local and regional communities which all recognise the strategic importance of a world class project being built in the Salamanca region. The project has the opportunity of putting Salamanca on the map as one of the most important, modern and sustainable uranium producers in the world, providing a win/win for jobs and the Spanish economy, and the future for European low carbon power generation.”