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Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Laciana Valley, Spain


The Laciana Valley is a highly environmental protected area (under EU Habitats Directive, LIC and ZEPA zones and Reserve of the Biosphere). Mountaintop Removal coal mining (MTR) has been developing on the top of 5 mountains for almost 30 years with great environmental and social impacts and without any environmental nor construction permit. Because of lacking permits, the Spanish Courts declared illegal the MTR, set a fine of €170 Million and ordered the company to stop the extraction activity. The company never paid the fine, did not stop the extraction and plans expansion in the area. Besides, the mining company receives subsidies from the Spanish government for coal extraction. The local population is strongly splitted in opinions regarding the continuation of the MTR. Local green groups have organised talks, marches, activities, some of them, even tried to get to the local political institutions, and they brought the case to the European institutions.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Laciana Valley, Spain
State or province:León - Castilla y León
Location of conflict:Laciana Valley
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Specific commodities:Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project area:600
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:05/1985
Company names or state enterprises:Coto Minero del Cantábrico from Spain
Relevant government actors:Villablino Town Council, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Environment, European Parliament, European Commission, Regional Governement of Castilla y León
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Filón Verde, Los Verdes de Laciana, Asociación en defensa de la Naturaleza de Laciana, SOS Laciana
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Silent protests in Town Council meetings;
Encouraging conventional media coverage;
Electronic petitions; Paintings and graffittis in roads and walls from empty buildings;
Photographic exhibitions;
Talks and workshops in social centres and universities;
Protest-walks in the Mountaintop Removal coal mines.
Press releases;
Protest camps;
Direct action (blockades & occupying the mountains that were to be blown up); Occupation of Town Council;
Edition of videos,
Activities for raising awareness;
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
New legislation
Stop the extraction
Development of alternatives:rural tourism
organic cattle farming
small bussiness
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The actions of the environmental groups were successful at European level (to force the EU institutions to take position) and for raising awareness about the conflict. But a contextual factor, i.e, the imminent end of coal subsidies, which has been known for 30 years, seemed to have been more successful to stop the activity.
In the end, the regional government cancelled the expansion projects.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Council Regulation (EC) No 1407/2002 of 23 July 2002 on State aid to the coal industry
[click to view]

CJEU (2011, 24 November). Judgment of the Court. EC v Kingdom of Spain. Case

BOE (1986). Real Decreto Legislativo 1302/1986, de 28 de junio, de evaluación de impacto ambiental. Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Urbanismo. BOE 155: 23733-23735.
[click to view]

CJEU (2011, 24 November). Judgment of the Court. EC v Kingdom of Spain. Case C-404/09. European Court Reports 2011 Page 00000.
[click to view]

Real Decreto 134/2010, de 12 de febrero, por el que se establece el

procedimiento de resolución de restricciones por garantía de suministro y se modifica el Real Decreto 2019/1997, de 26 de diciembre, por el que se organiza y regula el mercado de producción de energía eléctrica
[click to view]

European Commission (2010). Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds. Official Journal of the European Communities L 020 7-25, Brussels: European Commission.
[click to view]

European Commission (1992). Directive 92/43/EEC of the European Council of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora. Official Journal of the European Communities L 206, 7-50 Brussels: European Commission.

MITyC (2004). Plan nacional de reserva estratégica de carbón 2006-2012 y nuevo modelo de mercado de producción de energía eléctrica. Ministerio de Industria y Energía. BOE, 51:
[click to view]

Real Decreto 1221/2010, de 1 de octubre, por el que se modifica el Real Decreto 134/2010, de 12 de febrero, por el que se establece el procedimiento de resolución de restricciones por garantía de suministro y se modifica el Real Decreto 2019/1997, de 26 de diciembre, por el que se organiza y regula el mercado de producción de energía eléctrica.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Herrero Cabrejas, Amaranta, Tesis doctoral sobre el conflicto de Laciana:
[click to view]

Dossier SOS Laciana
[click to view]

La minas de León escandalizan al Parlamento Europeo
[click to view]

Various blogs (In Spanish)
[click to view]

Filon Verde
[click to view]

Méndez, R. (2007, 27 abril). 'Un juez ordena el cierre inmediato de una gran mina por daño ambiental', El Pais. Disponible en:
[click to view]

Bollero, D. (2009, 4 diciembre). 'Minería contra natura'. Público. Disponible en:
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

SOS Laciana : Toma La Montaña
[click to view]

Exposición Caminando por la montaña herida. SOS Laciana.20.03-04.04.2012
[click to view]

RTVE (2009, 22 junio). 'Laciana, territorio Comanche'. El escarabajo Verde. Madrid: Radio Televisión Española. Disponible en:
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Amaranta Herrero
Last update18/08/2019
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