The Government's mining agenda before the Supreme Court

The Government's mining agenda before the Supreme Court
The Government's mining agenda before the Supreme Court
  • Ecologistas en Acción has appealed to the Supreme Court against the Roadmap for the sustainable management of Mineral Raw Materials approved by the Government last August.
  • The environmental organization fears that the new mining law, promoted by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, is dictated by the mining lobby, as already happened with the road map.

The Roadmap for the sustainable management of Mineral Raw Materials, approved by the Government in August 2022, has been appealed by Ecologistas en Acción before the Supreme Court. The plan, which was processed without undergoing the mandatory strategic environmental evaluation, opened the door to begin a reform of the 1973 Mining Law, a process that the Government began in November 2022 with a public consultation.

The environmental organization has denounced that the roadmap includes paragraphs dictated directly by the mining lobby. That is why he fears that the same thing will happen with the new mining law and that, far from achieving the necessary protectionist advance with the environment, it will try to accelerate the procedures, restrict public participation and open more areas of the territory to the mining boom.

This fear of the process for a new mining law is based both on the extractivist positioning of the roadmap approved by the Ministry itself, and on the rejection in Congress, last July, of the proposal to modify the mining law. A proposal, drafted by Ecologistas en Acción and promoted by Unidas Podemos, that sought to reform the current Francoist mining law, which lacks limits that preserve the territory against extractivism.

In the consultation process for the new mining law, which ended on December 23, 2022, hundreds of allegations were presented prepared by Ecologistas en Acción together with dozens of groups, local platforms and environmental organizations, proposing a series of critical measures to that mining activity is not even more destructive and polluting.

These are proposals that already appear in the mining laws of most European countries, but which the Spanish mining lobby wants to avoid at all costs. Among them, the exclusion of mining from protected areas and the Natura 2000 network; the end of the right of eminent domain; the mandatory nature of the environmental impact assessment; or the establishment of a fee on the value of what is produced to avoid the looting that mining companies do of goods, minerals, that are public.

In the allegations presented to the Ministry, it is also highlighted that in many critical aspects Spanish regulations are behind those of countries such as China, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador or Peru. For example, in Spain it is legal to build a mining waste pond immediately upstream of an inhabited area (as is the proposal in the Touro mine, on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela). This same installation would be illegal in China, which requires a distance of 1 km, or in Brazil or Ecuador, where a minimum distance of 10 km must be left.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Aznalcóllar catastrophe, Ecologistas en Acción has demanded that the new law put an end to low-cost mining that could repeat that disaster on an even larger scale in the future. According to the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, 99 % of the existing mining sludge ponds in the State are built following the upstream method—allowed in our country—which is prohibited in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, as it is the more dangerous and prone to critical failure due to liquefaction.

For this reason, Ecologistas en Acción has asked the Government to pay attention to the regulatory advances of other countries around us and not to the proposals of the mining lobby, which will aggravate the existing environmental and social problems that mining extractivism brings with it.

Furthermore, the environmental organization demands that, instead of sacrificing the territory environmentally, urgent and decisive measures be adopted to promote the recovery and recycling of metals. On the alternatives side, a report by Ecologistas en Acción published in early 2022 highlights the possibility of satisfying a large part of the demand for critical metals for the energy transition through recycling.