"The Directorate General of Energy and Geology should not put in public consultation requests for exploration rights in classified areas," argues environmental association Zero.
The organisation is concerned that more than 86,000 hectares of nature conservation land is part of the current 'great lithium rush.'
Hence, says Zero, "the attribution of exploration rights involving areas included in the Network of Protected Areas should be refused. "
Zero noted that in the last 16 months there have been 26 requests for exploration and research rights, 19 of which specifically refer to lithium and in total they cover an area of over 616,000 hectares.
"Nine of the requests include about 27,000 hectares in protected areas, such as the Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve, with 56% of its area included in one of the applications," Zero said.
As there are overlaps between protected areas in the Natura 2000 network and those that are special protection areas or sites of Community importance, "it is noted that it concerns an overall area of about 86,000 hectares designated by the Portuguese Government as protected areas.
"It is fundamental to make the process more transparent, with a real consultation with stakeholders and local populations, as well as through the use of the portal Participa.pt, whose clear and easy access structure helps participation in these processes," argues the association.