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Abandoned uranium mines, Portugal


Description

In 1913, uranium mining began in Portugal in the Urgeiriça and Canas de Senhorim (Viseu) mines. Infrastructure for ore processing was also built in the area in which the country's largest reserves of uranium are located. The year 1949 was crucial for Portugal's uranium industry: the country signed an agreement with England prior to the Cold War for the exploitation of 4,370 tons of uranium oxide in 61 mines (most were small) located in the districts of Guarda, Viseu, and Coimbra. Currently, all of them are closed and in a dangerous state of abandonment.

Based in Urgeiriça, the Empresa Nacional do Urânio (ENU, National Uranium Company) had been responsible for the exploitation of all uranium mines in Portugal since 1977. The process to dissolve the company began in 2001. On December 31, 2003, the Urgeiriça mine was closed, leaving behind large socio-environmental liabilities. This gave rise to the fight for compensation and the organization of anti-uranium groups and numerous protests throughout the country. In central Portugal, 115 of the 500 former uranium company employees have died due to health problems from working in unsafe conditions.

Parliamentary Resolution nº. 34/2001, of March 29, recommended that the government take measures to solve the problem of radioactivity in the waste and the abandoned uranium mines in the districts of Coimbra, Viseu, and Guarda. Its main recommendations were to actively monitor the communities of all three districts to minimize the risks related to radioactivity and chemical pollution and to provide former ENU employees a pension and compensation to guarantee them adequate living conditions (there were 40 workers on staff when the company closed). The Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro (EDM, Mining Development Enterprise) was created as a public enterprise by Decree-Law 198A/2001. It is responsible for the environmental restoration of areas that have been degraded by mining in the country.

In 2002, former ENU employees and community members created the Ambiente em Zonas Uraníferas – Associação Ambiental (AZU, the Environment in Uranium Zones –Environmental Association). The association defended the need for an epidemiological study to investigate the relationship between uranium mining in the region and the high incidence of cancer in the population.

At this point, a study on the effects of uranium exposure on the entire population of Nelas concluded that the rate of mortality from 'malignant neoplasm of the trachea, bronchi, and lungs' was high It also confirmed the possibility that this increase was related to uranium mining in Urgeiriça (Viseu), but could not rule out other causes. In 2004, several demonstrations were held in Canas de Senhorim, involving confrontations with police.

In November 2007, a new wave of demonstrations took place. Former ENU workers held a vigil in front of city hall in Viseu to demand compensation. In Nisa (Alentejo), AZU supported the protest movement led by the population and local associations, also backed by the local authorities, in opposition to the uranium mining project. In June 2007, they created the civic movement Movimento Urânio em Nisa Não (MUNN, No to Uranium in Nisa), which is still active today.

In April 2008, the works began to clean up Barragem Velha, the waste storage site of the Urgeiriça mines.

In September 2010, a new law was approved, which provides surface miners compensation to ensure that they had the right to early retirement regardless of how long they had worked for ENU. Adopted in April, 2016, law no 10/2016 established the right of ENU workers to compensation for death caused by occupational diseases.

In 2015, the Movimento Ibérico Anti-nuclear (Iberian Anti-nuclear Movement) was created to fight for the closure of the nuclear energy plants on the Iberian Peninsula (namely Almaraz) and address other problems related to the nuclear industry such as uranium mining or waste management.

According to data from February 2017, works are still pending for 20 of the 61 mines, which fall under the scope of Parliamentary Resolution nº. 34/2001. The deadline for their conclusion is 2022. Only 2 of the over 3 million tons of waste from the Barragem Velha site have been treated.

Basic Data

NameAbandoned uranium mines, Portugal
CountryPortugal
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tailings from mines
Specific CommoditiesUranium

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsUrgeiriça was the site of the National Company of Uranium-ENU, responsible, since 1977, for the exploitation of all uranium mines in Portugal. The dissolution of this company began in 2001. On December 31st, 2003 the Urgeiriça mine was closed.
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population4000
Start Date01/01/2001
Company Names or State EnterprisesEmpresa Nacional de Urânio (ENU) from Portugal
Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro (EDM) from Portugal
Relevant government actorsInstituto Nacional de Saúde Doutor Ricardo Jorge-INSA
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssociação Ambiente em Zonas Uraníferas (AZU)

Colective (present) and former workers from ENU-ATMU

Movimento de Restauração do Concelho de Canas de Senhorim (MRCCS)

Movimento Ibérico Anti-Nuclear-MIA

Movimento Urânio em Nisa Não-MUNN

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Sabotage
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Strikes
Occupation of buildings/public spaces

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination, Mine tailing spills, Desertification/Drought, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage)
OtherContamination of the houses.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
OtherUAn epidemiological study on uranium exposure suffered by all population of Nelas municipality's (2002) concluded that there was a higher mortality from malignant neoplasms of the trachea, bronchus and lung and the possibility that this excess was related to the exploitation of uranium in Urgeiriça. The MinUrar study (2007) concluded that the population of Canas de Senhorim showed a decrease in thyroid function, reproductive ability of men and women and the number of red and white cells and platelets in the blood.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Land dispossession

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Deaths
Institutional changes
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesAnalyse impacts on health and repair mines.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The environmental recovery of areas degraded by uranium mining have been carried out and the employees of ENU (at the time of dissolution as well as former ones) got equivalence to fund mine workers, taking advantage of the determinations relating to retirement. There were epidemiological studies in the affected population.

Sources and Materials

Legislations

Decree Law n.º 28/2005, concedendo a equiparação de fundo de mina aos trabalhadores que, à data da dissolução da ENU, mantinham um vínculo profissional com a empresa.
http://digestoconvidados.dre.pt/digesto//pdf/LEX/21/183616.PDF

Decree Law n.198-A/2001 de 6 de Julho. Estabelece a recuperação das áreas mineiras degradadas.
http://www.edm.pt/images/dl198A_2001.pdf

NEW

Decree law. AR. Lei n. 10/2016, 4 de abril de 2016. Estabelece o direito a uma compensação por morte emergente de doença profissional dos trabalhadores da Empresa Nacional de Urânio, S. A.
https://dre.pt/web/guest/pesquisa/-/search/73803671/details/maximized

References

MENDES, José, M.; ARAÚJO, Pedro. Nuclearidade, trabalho dos corpos e justiça. A requalificação ambiental das minas da Urgeiriça e os protestos locais. Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas, v. 64, p. 81-105, 2010.
http://www.scielo.oces.mctes.pt/pdf/spp/n64/n64a05

MENDES, José, M.; ARAÚJO, Pedro. As minas de urânio em França e em Portugal in MENDES et al (Coord.) Risco, cidadania e Estado num mundo globalizado, CES da Universidade de Coimbra, Contexto, 3, Dezembro de 2013.
http://www.ces.uc.pt/publicacoes/cescontexto/ficheiros/cescontexto_estudos_iii.pdf

FALÇÃO, José, M.; DIAS, Carlos, M.; NOGUEIRA, Paulo, J. Mortalidade por neoplasias malignas na população residente próximo de minas de urânio em PT. Epidemiologia, v. 20, n. 2, p. 35-51, Jul./Dez. 2002.
http://www.ensp.unl.pt/dispositivos-de-apoio/cdi/cdi/sector-de-publicacoes/revista/2000-2008/pdfs/2-04-2002.pdf

MENDES, José Manuel de Oliveira. “Só é vencido quem deixa de lutar”: Protesto e Estado democrático em Portugal. Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais, nº 72, Out. 2005, 161-185.
http://www.ces.uc.pt/cesfct/jmm/PEDP_161-186.pdf

MENDES, José M. de O. A Beira town in protest: memory, populismo in democracy. South European Society and Politics, v. 9, n. 2, p. 98-131, 2004.
https://estudogeral.sib.uc.pt/bitstream/10316/25439/1/josemendessesp.pdf

NEW

BRAVIN, Adriana; FERNANDES, Lúcia (orgs.). Diferentes formas de dizer não: expressões de conflitos ambientais em Portugal e na América do Sul. Cescontexto debates, n. 17. Centro de Estudos Sociais- CES da Universidade de Coimbra- UC. Mai. 2017.
http://www.ces.uc.pt/publicacoes/cescontexto/index.php?id=17217

NEW

JANELA, José. Contra a exploração do urânio em Nisa: uma luta vitoriosa. pp.34-38. In: LUSA. Recuperação das minas de urânio de Ázere, Tábua. 22 dez. 2016.
http://www.ces.uc.pt/publicacoes/cescontexto/index.php?id=17217

Links

News article (2004). CORREIO DA MANHÃ. Antigos mineiros da Urgeiriça em vigília voltam a exigir indemnizações. Correio da Manhã, 17 May
http://www.cmjornal.xl.pt/cm_ao_minuto/detalhe/antigos-mineiros-da-urgeirica-em-vigilia-voltam-a-exigir-indemnizacoes.html

News article (2004). CORREIO DA MANHÃ. Canas de Senhorim volta aos protestos. Correio da Manhã, Nov. .
http://www.cmjornal.xl.pt/nacional/portugal/detalhe/canas-de-senhorim-volta-aos-protestos.html

News article (2009). CORREIO DA MANHÃ. Seladas 32 minas antigas. Correio da Manhã, 27 oct.
http://www.cmjornal.xl.pt/nacional/portugal/detalhe/seladas-32-minas-antigas.html

NUCLEAR POWER: No thanks: no uranium mining in Alentejo.
http://www.nuclear-heritage.net/index.php/No_uranium_mining_in_Alentejo_-_Portugal%27s_radioactive_legacy

NEW

AZU. AZU Ambiente Zonas Uraníferas. Facebook. 2016.
https://www.facebook.com/ambiente.zonas.uranio

NEW

News Article. FERREIRA, Lurdes. Um país a limpar minas radioativas durante 21 anos. PÚBLICO, 6 fev. 2017.
https://www.publico.pt/2017/02/06/sociedade/noticia/um-pais-a-limpar-minas-radioactivas-durante-21-anos-1760920

Media Links

Reportagem RTP Minas da Urgeiriça
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqYBZ5qtXiY

From Chernobyl to Urgeiriça!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3POpylIDxxE

REMOVE

Protests, Brussels
http://videos.sapo.pt/JjWtcokPKZmrGBzswLGG

REMOVE

Contaminated houses
http://videos.sapo.pt/B4IiwB5SHaZUWvWaFmsW

NEW

Manifestação contra eventual exploração de urânio em Nisa reúne mais de 300 pessoas
https://www.rtp.pt/noticias/pais/protesto-contra-exploracao-de-uranio-em-nisa_v174800

NEW

PAEM - Mineração de Urânio: O Tema (2017)
http://www.ambientemovimento.org/uranio-tema-videos

NEW

PaeM - Mineração de Urânio – Canas de Senhorim (2017)
http://www.ambientemovimento.org/vdeos-urgeiria-canas-de-senhorim

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PaeM - Mineração Urânio – Nisa (2017)
http://www.ambientemovimento.org/vdeos-nisa-alto-alentejo

Other Documents

https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/MIN_Ur_nio_V1.jpg

Fonte: MUNN.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Urgeiri_a_V3.jpg

REMOVE
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/MIN_Ur_nio_V2.jpg

Fonte: MUNN.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Urgeiri_a_V1.jpg

Fonte: MUNN.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Urgeiri_a_V4.jpg

NEW

Fonte: MUNN.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/f8d648_d042496b3e2a4ffeb6a7eabc8f218719.jpg

NEW

Fonte: MUNN.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/f8d648_7646dfc1d720495e9330308a4b46bd32.jpg

Other CommentsThere are 66 mines in Coimbra, Guarda and Viseu district.

Main sites' coordinates:

Canas do Senhorim, Nelas: 40.508788, -7.907894

Nisa, Alentejo: GPS 39.31467, 7.385368

Mangualde:40.643592,-7.576152

Tábua: 40.320839,-8.100470

Meta Information

ContributorFrancisco Fernandes, Inês Ribeiro and Lays Silva
Last update18/04/2018

Images

 

photo

Diário As Beiras, 14 Dezembro, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

NEW Fonte: MUNN.

NEW Fonte: MUNN.