New Tales from Barroso Mountains – CIDSE

New Tales from Barroso Mountains

A story of how local communities in Portugal are fighting against exploitation of their lands by large corporations 

Demonstration at Barroso Mountains region

In this blog, we share with you ‘New tales from the Barroso Mountains’, set in the region of Barroso, in Northern Portugal. The tales are written by Mariana Riquito & João da Montanha to further disseminate the struggle and voices of the local community around the ongoing conflict(s) over prospective lithium mines in the region. 

Worldwide, transnational corporations are engaged in large-scale mining in the name of economic growth. Some of the devastating impacts of mining activities include environmental degradation, water, soil and air pollution, human rights abuses and the closure of democratic spaces, and the criminalization and repression of resistance by affected communities. Despite numerous trade and investment agreements that are in place to protect foreign companies’ investments, no binding international instrument is being able to implicate corporations for the human rights abuses inflicted by dangerous mining activities. Meanwhile, attempts by communities to hold companies accountable continue to result in threats, repression, violence, and even death. 

For the objective of unlimited economic growth and development, use of polluting energies and resources, massive extraction, overconsumption of the Earth’s resources and overuse of our soils and ecosystems has been justified. And local communities have paid the price in having no say regarding what takes place in their own land.  

“The current socioecological degradation levels are, therefore, consequence of this narrative about a hegemonic world and a socioeconomic system that transformed our Home Earth merely in a resource to be explored”.

Excerpt from another article from Mariana Riquito “Dizer não à expansão energética da modernidade capitalista: mobilizações e alternativas a partir das montanhas do Barroso.”*

Wall painting in the region of Mountains of Barroso, Portugal

Within this context, the new tales about the Barroso Mountains showcase the lives of the people living in this region who are suffering threats from mining exploration companies in the Barroso Mountains in northern Portugal, and how communities are prevented to decide about what goes on in their own land, being victims of destruction and pollution by mining companies. Around the world, affected communities are resisting mining and extractives industries in their territories.  

The tales tell the story of the action of these small communities, fighting for their land, and resisting: 

“The defence of this small plot of land has thus become a symbol of the people’s struggle. This defence plan has enjoyed the support of many other people in solidarity with the territory of Barroso: in the very first days, an appeal was made to Covas to mobilise, which was enthusiastically received; there was also an anti-mining caravan, which passed through the different villages of Barroso threatened by mining, culminating in Covas, which brought together two hundred cars and people. The strong solidarity between all the mountains and beyond has helped to consolidate the watchdog process, not allowing the populations to feel alone and isolated, as the company and the State want to make it seem.” 

While the green transition is essential to the health of our planet and to secure a future for humanity, it must be implemented in a way that does not harm people and the planet. We need a social, green, just transition, through which local communities are not victims of land grabbing and human rights prevail. 

“Over the last six years, these populations and their mountains have resisted steadfastly, forming associations and collectives; participating in municipal assemblies; organising themselves in sharecroppers’ assemblies; creating communication and information-sharing channels; drawing up maps and reports; organising demonstrations and protests; taking part in academic and cultural events; writing and speaking for various media and academic platforms; mobilising hundreds of people to take part in public consultations; taking legal action at all stages of administrative processes; organising camps and artist residencies; carrying out blockades and boycotts of state representatives; blocking machinery and preventing the company from moving forward on the ground. The people of Barroso know that this is not (just) a local struggle, and they know that they are not alone.” 

Demonstration in Defense of Barroso Mountains

The Right to Say No** is the right of a community to say “No” to extractive projects and to say “Yes” to their chosen way of living, and to reclaim sovereignty, control, management and decision-making power over their lands and territories. The communities of the Barroso Mountains rely on agriculture for their living, and with the exploitation of mining companies, they will be left without means to survive. 

The tales show that the current quest for minerals is not only threatening communities and biodiverse areas in Latin America, Asia or Africa, but also in Europe. Mining projects, like in this case in Portugal, are violating the democratic rights of communities to decide on the future of their lives and land and they are confronted with the destruction and pollution of their land and criminalisation of their social leaders. The EU’s Raw Materials policies will only exacerbate these violations as it will facilitate mining in a devastating way.  

“Without a commitment to consider human and social rights and the environment to tackle the demand side of those materials, and ambitious recycling and circularity targets, an unchecked rush to extract more raw materials will have disastrous impacts on people and the planet. Local communities worldwide will bear the burden of this ‘new’ EU scramble for resources.”

Wies Willems (Broederlijk Delen) and Kim Claes (former CIDSE) in their opinion article ‘More mining in Europe? There are alternatives too’.  

CIDSE has been part of the CSO Coalition on raw materials from the beginning – a coalition set up in response to the escalating demand for metals that are pivotal in ushering green and digital transitions globally. There is a clear need for coordination among CSOs working on the issues of EU raw materials policies, to join forces and share expertise.  

Together with its members and partners, CIDSE fights for a ‘Right to Say No’ of local communities to Green extractive projects and corporate impunity.

Wies Willems (Broederlijk Delen) and Kim Claes (former CIDSE) in their opinion articleMore mining in Europe? There are alternatives too’.  

* Original text: Os atuais níveis de degradação socioecológica são, pois, consequência de uma narrativa sobre o mundo e de um sistema socioeconómico hegemónicos, que converteram a nossa casa-Terra num mero ‘recurso’ a ser explorado.”  

**You can read more about the Right to Say No here, source Womin.

Photo Credits: Mariana Riquito and João Veloso. The photos were taken in the region of Barroso Mountain and Covas do Barroso during demonstrations in defense of local communities.

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