Gaia joins civil society organisations and campaigners in Spain voicing their opposition to three Spanish mining projects related to UK-listed mining company Atalaya. The mining operations are opposed by thousands of local people, who say the mines threaten livelihoods, unique ecosystems and irreplaceable cultural heritage.
JOINT PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 25/06/18
Spanish campaigners to attend Atalaya Mining’s AGM on 27 June for first time
London-listed mining company prepares to open old mines in Galicia and Santander and fails to act on imminent dam failure in Andalucía.
On 27 June, campaigner Luis Gallardo and environmental lawyer Elena Solis will attend Atalaya Mining’s London AGM. The company is listed on the UK’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), as well as the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).
In Galicia, Atalaya is planning to open an old open-pit copper mine in Touro (1). The company states support from the Galician government and local communities. Campaigners dispute this, pointing to recent regional government reports focusing on the detrimental impacts of the project on water, land, environment, health, the local economy and the lack of risk assessments.
On 10th June, over 50,000 people demonstrated against the proposed Touro mine in Galicia’s regional capital, Santiago de Compostela (2). Politicians from across the political spectrum joined the demonstration, including figures from Galicia’s governing People’s Party.
In Andalucía, Atalaya Mining owns 100 percent of the Riotinto copper mine (not linked to Rio Tinto mining company) along with the mine’s three associated tailings dams. Ecologistas en Accion, a federation of environmental groups, has highlighted the high risk of these dams collapsing, due to Atalaya’s poor management of the mine.
According to Atalaya’s own study, this mismanagement (3) could lead to a flood of 66.28 million m3 of toxic waste, in a wave of up to five metres high, affecting the nearby Doñana National Park and the towns of Gibraleón and Huelva.
In Santander, another of Atalaya’s proposed projects involves the opening of a five-kilometre gallery to explore for zinc in heavily populated Santillana del Mar, Santander. The gallery would be situated above the UNESCO World Heritage site of Altamira, which contains world-famous 15,500 year-old cave paintings.
In each of these three cases, campaigners are urging the company to not put profit over the safety and wellbeing of local people, the environment and irreplaceable cultural heritage.
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Luis Gallardo is a member of the Platform against the Touro and O Pino copper mine (Plataforma Mina Touro O Pino Non) in Galicia, northwest Spain. He said:
“I am demanding Atalaya stop the project and leave immediately. We are not allowing our lands to be invaded, stolen and destroyed, we are not changing our lives to make room for this destruction and contamination. Their project is full of inconsistencies, nobody needs it, nobody wants it, it has no social licence.
“We are coming to the AGM as part of our activities to stop the mine. We want to ensure that investors in London understand that this is an impossible project and that Atalaya is lying to the Galician government, to society and to themselves.”
Elena Solis is an environmental lawyer and head of mining for Ecologistas en Accion, Spain. She said:
“The priority of ‘junior’ companies such as Atalaya Mining is to maximize profits at the expense of lack of investment in mining to ensure that installations are safe. The situation in Riotinto is desperate. Human lives are at risk as the tailing dams are about to collapse. Ecologistas en Accion has taken out a lawsuit denouncing Atalaya’s lack of action. The judicial decision in this regard is pending but imminent.
“We are puzzled that an extremely long gallery needs to be built at the exploration stage of the zinc project near Santander, which will cause serious subsidence problems in populated areas.”
Organisations participating: Ecologistas en Accion, ContraMINAcción, (Action against Mines – Network against Destructive Mining in Galicia), Plataforma Touro O Pino Non (Platform No to the mine in Touro and O Pino), Yes to Life, No to Mining, Gaia Foundation and London Mining Network.
London Mining Network: Lydia James Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 07460394233
Ecologistas en Accion: Elena Solis Email: email@example.com Phone: 07905867078
Notes to editor
(1) Atalaya mining’s plans to acquire 80 percent ownership of Proyecto Touro (Spanish company Explotaciones Gallegas owns the other 20 percent), a brownfield copper project in Galicia, northwest Spain, are at the permitting stage. The 700-hectare site will be partly located on a previous copper mine, but Atalaya is seeking to expand the site to 1,827
hectares, taking in agricultural land and forests in the process. The company wants to operate the mine 24 hours a day, with a projected lifespan of approximately 15 years. The project will use more than ten tonnes of explosives a day.
(2) Resistance to Atalaya’s Touro project began in August 2017. People affected by the mining project are organised in a citizens’ platform, called Platform against the Touro and O Pino copper mine (Plataforma Mina Touro O Pino Non). Their concerns include contamination, noise and dust of the planned explosions, water scarcity and land-
grabs. Potential accidents could have a devastating effect on farmers, fisherpeople and Touro’s tourist industry around the Camino de Santiago trail. The Platform was initially formed with the support of ContraMINAcción – a network opposing destructive mining in Galicia.
(3) Atalaya has not constructed a tailings concentration plant next to their Riotinto copper mine, despite it being a legal condition set by environmental authorities.