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Spain: 134 CSOs express opposition to lithium mining project citing environmental risks and impact on tourism; including co responses

In a letter addressed to the President of the European Commission, 134 local and environmental organisations expressed their opposition to Infinity Lithium's San José de Valdeflórez lithium project next to the city of Cáceres, Spain. According to the signatories, the proposed lithium mine threatens the environment, access to water, as well as the local economy, which heavily relies on tourism linked to the historic centre of Cáceres - a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Infinity Lithium and project financier InnoEnergy to respond to the concerns raised in the letter. Their responses are included below.

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Company response
6 July 2020

Response from Infinity Lithium

Author: San José Valdeflórez, Infinity Lithium

...It is a sustainable industrial mining project that is respectful of people and the environment. Its raison d'être lies precisely in the promotion of electric mobility and the consequent reduction of CO2 emissions...from the beginning a neighbors' platform that opposes the project and calls itself 'Salvemos la Montaña' (Save the Mountain) has released false information about San José Valdeflórez...Given these events, we have repeatedly sought dialogue with them in order to answer their questions and clarify the wrong information...We have only had negative responses to our meeting proposals...

There is no report worldwide that links lithium production to any potential health problem, neither for workers nor for the population...San José Valdeflórez does not pose any threat to tourism or to the city's historical and cultural heritage. There are no reports linking industrial development in Cáceres with the decrease in touristic activity. We believe that, in any case, the injection into the local economy would boost the rest of the city's activities, including the service sector...The company has always scrupulously respected the regulations in force at the local, regional, national and European level regarding the environment, mining, urban planning...The platform accuses the project of using these types of ponds, common in mining operations in South America, which require large amounts of water and occupy a large area. These ponds do not exist nor are they even used in the 'hard rock' type of extraction proposed in San José Valdeflórez...

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Company response
3 July 2020

Response from InnoEnergy

Author: InnoEnergy

This is a sustainable project that complies with the strictest environmental legislation and the best practices in the sector and the project does not pose any risk to health or the environment...EIT InnoEnergy, as coordinator of the European Battery Alliance (EBA), has the mandate from the European Commission to promote industrial development throughout the entire battery value chain...For this reason, a fundamental part of our activity is to look for projects that go along this line and contribute to local sources of supply...the San José Valdeflórez mining industrial project lead by Infinity Lithium could be an opportunity for Europe to reduce CO2 emissions...In addition to San José Valdeflórez, EIT InnoEnergy will support three additional European lithium extraction and conversion projects with agreements similar to those reached with Infinity Lithium...Regarding the administrative process, the project is moving forward to obtain the necessary permits from the administrations, in this case the Regional Government of Extremadura and the City Council of Cáceres...

How do you respond to the political groups, to the environmentalists and to the citizens who have shown their dissatisfaction?...Many anonymous citizens have contacted the company through the contact form on the site to share their questions, and to express their support to the project...Communication channels have been open to maintain fluid, constant dialogues will all the institutions, political parties, and other relevant societal, and industrial stakeholders...

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Article
10 June 2020

Cáceres rejects lithium mine

Author: Hannibal Rhoades, The Ecologist

...134 local and environmental organisations from Spain and around the world have expressed their support for the citizens of Cáceres, Spain, and their right to say no to Infinity Lithium's San José de Valdeflórez lithium project. Infinity Lithium...plans to extract lithium from an open pit mine just 800m from the historic centre of Cáceres- a city recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site that relies heavily on tourism...The mining project received financial backing from InnoEnergy - a company supported by the European Union...

In a letter to the to President of the European Commission...the 134 organisations demand that the EU withdraw all financial and promotional support for the...lithium project...The letters authors write: "Top of local people’s concerns are the project’s likely impacts on the environment, water and also on the economic activity of tourism, which is central to the local economy"...Across Europe the EU is providing financial support to prospective mines and research initiatives that seek to increase the domestic extraction of 'critical' minerals and metals...Lithium, which is likely to be added to the EU's list of critical raw materials this year, is one such mineral...There is no question about the need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels. But frontline communities and activists across Europe are increasingly concerned that the vision for achieving this energy transition is being influenced by industry and neoliberal economics in a way that jeopardises citizens, beloved ecosystems and our response to climate change...

...the Save the Mountain of Cáceres Platform...states that Infinity Lithium's proposed mine lacks 'social license to operate'...The extensive international support the...campaign has received reflects the reality that communities around the world are facing similar pressures...

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