Berkeley Energia uranium mining project in Spain ‒ the EU’s only new uranium mine?

Berkeley Energia’s planned uranium mine in Retortillo, Spain, faces resistance from a growing movement of local people and allies from Portugal to France. Richard Harkinson from the London Mining Network assesses the Australian-incorporated, London-listed company’s attempt to open the European Union’s only open-cast uranium mine.

Re-posted from Nuclear Monitor with permission of the author- Richard Harkinson, London Mining Network. 8th June 2018.

Since early 2017, the mayor of Villavieja de Yeltes municipality in Salamanca, north-west Spain, has been instrumental in calling Australian-incorporated Berkeley Energia (formerly Berkeley Resources) to account and in calling local residents and people from neighbouring towns to monthly rallies against the company’s proposed Retortillo uranium project.(1)

Retortillo is planned as an open-cast uranium mine, heap leaching and processing or ‘milling’ plant, said to be ready to begin production in late 2018 but lacking necessary permits and facing four public interest litigation suits from the municipality and from national non-governmental organisations.

The project has sparked a wave of opposition arising from concerns about potential impacts on the environment and local people. These risks include its location very near a school area, possible impacts on a protected ecological zone, and its permit to discharge waste-water ve kilometres upstream of established drinking water extraction sites for Villavieja de Yeltes. The water discharge permit contradicts a European Commission- funded regional five-river biodiversity project because it has transboundary significance.(2,3) Close to 40 municipalities are opposed to the company’s plan to develop the Retortillo project, which has potential impacts on the existing economy including spa tourism facilities.

Berkeley has renamed itself, changed some of its personnel, reduced its website information, changed its AIM nominated adviser (the AIM is a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange), and negotiated a potential ‘take-off’ contract with a commodity trader, which has ‘phoenixed’ itself; that is, one small company was liquidated and replaced by another (InterAlloys to Curzon Resources) run by the same individual. This has allowed Berkeley to raise capital, because it has obtained the support of Euratom to develop the European Union’s only open-cast uranium mine.

European Commission involvement will not help provide sufficient environmental information in a timely manner to assist public participation in decision-making.(4) With the need for more transparency, the continued involvement of former Spanish state officials Cañete and Lamela creates at best unfavourable impressions.(5) While the Commission in its 2012 report on former uranium mining sites in Spain, some of which are under reclamation, had been informative about applicable costs, methods and requirements for treating toxic waste, it did however raise questions about the relationships between Berkeley and state uranium mining agency ENUSA.(6)

Potential radiation impacts are being identifed by the growing social movement, who argue that the EIA process omitted consideration of ore processing. It is clear that a number of human rights are being abused or put at risk including the right to information (7), the right to health (8), the right to livelihood and an adequate standard of living (9), and the right to a safe and healthy natural environment.(10)

What the company says (11)

Berkeley Energia claims on its website to have developed ‘a good neighbour and business partner relationship with the local community’ and to have local and regional support and major community investment and environmental rehabilitation plans for the project area. The website makes no mention of community opposition, health risks from uranium or other potentially negative social or environmental impacts, apart from initial felling of trees.

Berkeley’s 2017 Annual Report cites ‘highly supportive’ local municipalities and sizeable community investments to date, and commits Berkeley to improve the ecological and agricultural value of the area through a reforestation programme. There is no mention of environmental risks from, or public concerns about, uranium. The Annual Report notes in passing that ‘various appeals’ against the necessary licences have been unsuccessful. It is quoted on Mining.com as emphasizing the mine’s job creation potential, adherence to ‘the highest EU environmental and safety standards’ and ‘overwhelming support’ from local and regional communities.

Berkeley is reported in the press as signing an agreement that ‘will provide construction capital’ with the Oman Sovereign Wealth Fund, an institution that has been evaluated as having a transparency rating of 4 out of 10. (12)

In 2016, Berkeley published a ‘definitive feasibility study’ on its website. As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated, however, the best approach advised by the UN is to evaluate the full, clearly disaggregated costs of ‘economic and social viability’. (13) Berkeley has not done this.

Listing on the London Stock Exchange

Berkeley Energia announced on May 2 its intention to delist from AIM and instead list on the full London Stock Exchange (14) and that it intends to seek investment only from institutions. It also said it plans to list on the Spanish Stock Exchange or bolsa.

In the UK, NGO London Mining Network wrote to the London Stock Exchange, a private company and regulator the Financial Conduct Authority, arguing that the listing should be frozen because of Berkeley’s wrongful claims of strong community support and that challenges to its regional permits have failed. (15) In Spain, the Stop Uranio campaign protested to the bolsa and financial regulator, which avoided decision-making in deference to the London Stock Exchange.

The UK agencies declined to respond, and decided to accord full listing to Berkeley. In Spain a corruption crisis has engulfed the ruling Partida Popular (16) and the expected political upheaval is taking place with a new left coalition coming to power. The upheaval has contributed to the bolsa delaying Berkeley’s listing (17), ostensibly on the basis of the incompleteness of its prospectus.

Existing parliamentary moves (18) to freeze the Retortillo project by congress committee members in Unidos- Podemos, now the main coalition partner in the new PSOE government led by President Pedro Sánchez, may well have changed the mine’s prospects. Also, the Ombudsman has declared that Berkeley failed to give information about its water discharge permit (19), and again coalition partner Unidos-Podemos is seeking to block the permit, demanding transparency. June in Spain will be a busy month!

Berkeley hopes to attract German and Polish institutional investors, and the UK exchange’s lack of insistence on rigorous risk assessments may mean that the project’s risks are hidden. The UK has inadequately implemented the post financial crash 2013 Directive 34/EU on company reporting, so most mining companies like Berkeley avoid necessary non- financial reporting. The prospects for the project depend on political (20) and legal developments in Spain.

Note: This article was originally written for London Mining Network’s forthcoming report “AIM-traded mining companies and human rights”, lead author Miles Litvinoff.


Follow YLNM members StopUranio to stay up-to-date with the campaign via Twitter  and Facebook.

References:

  1. For background information on the proposed mine see: EJOLT, Uranium mining: Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry, report no. 15, 2014, www.ejolt.org/wordpress/ wp-content/uploads/2014/11/141115_U-mining.pdf; European Parliament parliamentary questions, ‘Commissioner Cañete’s approval of a proposed uranium mine’, Dec. 2015, https://goo.gl/o9sYkK, and ‘Retortillo uranium mine – breach of Community law’, Apr. 2017, www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E- 2017-003016+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=en; Mining.com, ‘Spaniards to protest against Berkeley’s Retortillo-Santidad uranium mine’, Oct. 2016, www.mining.com/ spaniards-to-protest-against-berkeleys-retortillo-santidad-mine, and ‘Mayor organizes massive protest against Berkeley’s uranium mine in Spain’, Nov. 2017, www.mining. com/mayor-organizes-massive-protest-berkeleys-uranium-mine-spain; WWF, ‘WWF denounces to the European Commission the largest uranium mine in Europe in the heart of a protected area’, Feb. 2017, www.wwf.es/?42760/WWF-denuncia-ante-la-Comisin-Europea-la-mayor-mina-de-uranio-en-Europa-en-el-corazn-de-un-espacio-protegido; World Nuclear News, ‘European approval for Salamanca offtake agreement’, Mar. 2017, www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-European-approval-for-Salamanca-offtake- agreement-2103174.html; Ecologistas en acción, ‘Crece el apoyo internacional contra la minería de uranio en Salamanca’ (‘International support against uranium mining in Salamanca grows’), Sept. 2017, www.ecologistasenaccion.org/article35005.html
  2. Proyecto cipríber, Diagnóstico de la Situacion Inicial, Mar. 2015, https://cipriber.eu/documentos/A1.pdf
  3. https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/02/20/actualidad/1519120257_025882.html
  4. The relationship between the Parliament, Commission and Euratom is constitutionally uncertain.
  5. Green light for a controversial uranium mine, https://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2016/03/disputed-commissioner-ca-ete-involved-new-controversies
  6. European Commission DG Energy, Southern and western Spain – former uranium installations and national monitoring, technical report,

    https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/ les/documents/tech_report_spain_2012_en.pdf, 4.4.1.3, 4.4.1.5, 4.4.3 et al.

7. UN General Assembly, ‘Calling of an International Conference on Freedom of Information’, Resolution 59, 1946, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/

NR0/033/10/IMG/NR003310.pdf?OpenElement; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx, Art. 19; UN Economic Commission for Europe, Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), 1998, www.unece.org/ leadmin/DAM/env/pp/documents/cep43e.pdf

8. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/, Art. 25; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx, Art. 12.

9. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/, Art. 25; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx, Art. 11.

10. An emerging human right: UN Environment, ‘Human rights and the environment’, n.d. (2015), http://web.unep.org/divisions/delc/human-rights-and-environment; D. Shelton, Professor of Law, Notre Dame University, ‘Human rights, health and environmental protection: Linkages in law and practice’, background paper for the World Health Organization, n.d., www.who.int/hhr/information/Human_Rights_Health_and_Environmental_Protection.pdf

11. Berkeley Energia, company website, including www.berkeleyenergia.com/salamanca-project-overview, and 2017 Annual Report, www.berkeleyenergia.com/wp-content/ uploads/2017/09/Berkeley-Annual-Report-2017_Merged.pdf; Mining.com, ‘Spaniards to protest against Berkeley’s Retortillo-Santidad uranium mine’, Oct. 2016, www.mining. com/spaniards-to-protest-against-berkeleys-retortillo-santidad-mine

12. Telegraph, ‘Uranium miner Berkeley Energia wins £93m backing from Oman’, Aug. 2017, www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/08/30/uranium-miner-berkeley-energia-wins- 93m-backing-oman/; Linaburg-Maduell Transparency Index, www.sw nstitute.org/statistics-research/linaburg-maduell-transparency-index/

13. IAEA, In Situ Leach Uranium Mining: An Overview of Operations, 2016, www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/P1741_web.pdf; United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Framework Classi cation for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources, 2009, www.unece.org/energy/se/unfc_2009.html. IAEA stipulates stating separately and internalised: direct costs of mining, transporting and processing the uranium ore; costs of associated environmental and waste management during and after mining; costs of maintaining non-operating production units; in the case of ongoing projects, non-amortized capital costs; capital cost of providing new production units, including the cost of nancing; indirect management costs , taxes and royalties; future exploration and development costs wherever required for further ore delineation to the stage where it is ready to be mined.

14. www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/news/market-news/market-news-detail/BKY/13626645.html
15. http://londonminingnetwork.org/2018/05/open-letter-on-berkeleys-impending-move-from-aim-to-lse
16. www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/25/spanish-socialists- le-no-con dence-motion-against-mariano-rajoy-gurtel
17. https://cincodias.elpais.com/cincodias/2018/06/05/mercados/1528224435_959021.html
18. www.eldiario.es/economia/Congreso-plantea-paralizar-Salamanca-aclarar_0_776223048.html
19. http://senat.compromis.net/2018/05/28/mina-retortillo-defensor-del-pueblo-muestra-su-malestar-por-la-obstruccion-de-la-confederacion-hidrogra ca-del-duero-en-aportar-informacion/ 20. www.elcon dencial.com/empresas/2018-06-06/uranio-nuclear-salamanca-berkeley-bolsa-mina_1574367/

Related Posts

Spanish anti-mining platforms united against mining and speculation
El Parlamento Europeo insta a investigar sobre la vulneración generalizada de directivas europeas en las minas de San Finx
‘Ties are strengthened’: Spanish campaigners unite around Atalaya Mining’s London AGM
PRESS RELEASE: Spanish campaigners call Atalaya Mining to account
Huge demonstrations against mining in Galicia, Spain
Berkeley Energia uranium mining project in Spain ‒ the EU’s only new uranium mine?
Extractive colonialism in Europe: the case of Greece #Skouries
El Camino de Santiago: resistance to new copper mining near UNESCO World Heritage walking route
Save Pont Valley: Local residents take direct action against new opencast coal mine
Slow Death in Siberia

Slow Death in Siberia

Press Release: Slow Death in Siberia
Resource Sufficiency: Moving beyond the gospel of eco-efficiency
Fidelma O’Kane – Earth Keeper

Fidelma O’Kane – Earth Keeper

  • Written on: 03 May 2018
  • Posted under: Videos
Our Earth Our Future: To Mine or to Mind?

Our Earth Our Future: To Mine or to Mind?

  • Written on: 03 May 2018
  • Posted under: Videos
Leave the gold in the hills: international solidarity flows to community resisting mining in Northern Ireland
Mencherep, Siberia: An incredible victory in an unlikely place
Pont Valley: Bust of Secretary of State unveiled to protest lack of action on opencast coal
Take Action: 10,000 native trees for Froxán
County Durham, UK: Protesters scale trees in sub-zero temperatures in bid to stop new opencast coal mine
Resistance against mining growing in Galicia, Spain
Näätämö River restoration project receives major new support, Finland
Press Release: Frontline defenders travel to London to counter Mines and Money conference between 25-30 November
The secret of your smartphone

The secret of your smartphone

  • Written on: 22 November 2017
  • Posted under: Videos
Panorama Mine: Mapping French mining projects
Members of YLNM have expressed their solidarity with Jesús Cruz, a member of Stop Uranio from Spain
For the Right to Resist !!! International Solidarity with blogger and Stop Uranio Activist from Salamanca, Spain
Take Action: Support Galician YLNM members’ campaign to investigate the San Finx mine
EL CAMPO CHARRO EN LUCHA POR LA INTENCIÓN DE UNA MULTINACIONAL AUSTRALIANA DE ABRIR UNA MINA DE URANIO A CIELO ABIERTO
Calling Australian Allies: Help Stop Uranio halt a uranium mine in Salamanca, Spain
Trun: Bulgarian town backs gold mining ban in referendum
Eldorado Gold’s Unspoken Legal Problems in Greece
“Druridge Bay is not theirs to take, but ours to keep.”
In Photos: Solidarity in action at rally to stop Druridge Bay coal mine
We stand in solidarity: South African and UK communities unite to reject plans for Druridge Bay open-cast coal mine
Open Letter: South African communities ask UK planners to reject new open-cast coal mine
Call to action: Support campaigners who shut down the UK’s largest coal mine!
The European Parliament insists on a cyanide ban in mining
More than 100 organizations around the world say no to mega-mining in French Guiana
Movie-like intimidation and obstruction tactics at Certej in Romania
Resistance, exchange, (post)extractivism: YLNM Coordinators meet in Galicia- in photos
Agua, tierra, derechos y alternativas

Agua, tierra, derechos y alternativas

Un comité de expertos internacionales visitó el entorno de San Finx
YLNM joins ContraMINAcción to celebrate third Meeting on Impacts of Mining, in Galicia
Gold-digging with investor-state lawsuits: Canadian mining corporation sues to force Romanians to accept toxic Roşia Montană goldmine
Selkie: Restoring land, water and hope in the Finnish Boreal
The Sami’s Näätämö River Revival: Hope in the midst of Finland’s extractive tsunami
#AxeDrax: Campaigners unite for climate justice against coal and bioenergy-fueled deforestation
REPORT: The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources
‘Responsible Extractives Summit’: Sick Joke or Serious Indictment of Industry?
Mining, Murder and a British Millionaire: Protestors stand in solidarity with South African communities opposing mining
#StandWithAmadiba

#StandWithAmadiba

  • Written on: 11 May 2016
  • Posted under: Videos
Attack to Common Woodland in Galicia

Attack to Common Woodland in Galicia

Sløtface: Anti-mining Activist Punk Rockers

Sløtface: Anti-mining Activist Punk Rockers

  • Written on: 28 April 2016
  • Posted under: Videos
New Forest ‘Land Grab’ Act Passes in Finnish Parliament
Take Action to prevent the destruction of Sami Forest Lands in Finland
Finland: State Forestry Company About to Seize Control of Sámi Indigenous Key Old Growth Forests
How to define “responsible mining”? A critical review of a French initiative by EWB Extractive systems
‘People of Artvin are against mining because their way of life is threatened’
Romanian civil society wins key victory against proposed gold mine
Police teargas locals protesting new gold mines in Artvin, Turkey
No coal, no fracking: end fossil fuel production on UK soil by 2020!
Máis minas contaminantes para Galicia: alerta social
Ditch coal now! The global destruction caused by the UK’s coal power generation
Call for Abstracts and Invitation to Workshop – An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Negative Impacts of Mining
Ditch Coal

Ditch Coal

At the Coalface: Ten more years of UK coal burning a lifetime on the ground
Tesouro de Corcoesto

Tesouro de Corcoesto

  • Written on: 15 January 2016
  • Posted under: Videos
A message of solidarity to communities fighting the Skouries Mine (Halkidiki)
Romanian village blocks Canadian firm from mining for gold
Yes to Life and Climate Justice, No to Mining and Climate Catastrophe! (EN/FR)
Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production
Petition: Tackle the deadly trade in conflict minerals!

Petition: Tackle the deadly trade in conflict minerals!

  • Written on: 14 October 2015
  • Posted under: Campaigns
UK: Community opponents of planned Field House coal mine buoyed by international solidarity
Coal Map of Europe

Coal Map of Europe

Armenian Villagers Up In Arms Against New Mining Project
Lignite – Power Source of the Past?

Lignite – Power Source of the Past?

  • Written on: 11 September 2015
  • Posted under: Videos
Our Resistance, Our Hope: Unity Statement of the International People’s Conference on Mining
Stopping Eldorado Gold – Mining struggle in Greece
The end of an affair! Gabriel to sue Romania over Rosia Montana via an ISDS case
Achievements of the Global Day Against Mega Mining
Strengthening anti-mining ties in southern Europe
22 July 2015 – Global Day of Action Against Mega Mining- DÍA MUNDIAL CONTRA LA MEGAMINERÍA
Invitation to FanFest and the Rosia Montana Forum
‘300 Cerattepeli’ stand against mining company
Fracking application rejected by Lancashire county council
Mining on Top Africa: London Summit Disrupted
Victory as Councillors take a stance against Welsh opencast coal mining
Africa-UK Civil Society Letter to the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit
PRESS RELEASE: African Civil Society Challenges London Mining Conference
UK Coal Far From Dead: Bradley Coal Mine approved despite community resistance.
Sámi People and allies force Irish mining company out of their territory
I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes

I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes

  • Written on: 08 April 2015
  • Posted under: Videos
In Pictures – Yes to Life No to Mining raises the voice of African civil society against the extractives
Let them eat carbon! The corporate plan to cook Africa in its own fossil fuels
African civil society and global allies challenge Chatham House conference on ‘Extractive Industries in Africa’
Divestment, in Solidarity: NAPE Uganda reach out to London’s divestment campaigners
CONDEMNED: Russian Coal Mining and Shor Displacements

CONDEMNED: Russian Coal Mining and Shor Displacements

  • Written on: 05 February 2015
  • Posted under: Videos
In Solidarity – En Solidaridad

In Solidarity – En Solidaridad

  • Written on: 11 December 2014
  • Posted under: Videos
Mining An Imminent Threat to Local and Indigenous Communities of European North
Communities of Falkirk Join Together To Resist Extreme Energy Initiatives
Local Communities Resist Gold Mining in Corcoesto, Galicia

Start a Conversation. Share Words of Solidarity.

This website is about building a movement. We can only build a movement when we connect with one another. We invite you to do just that…

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *