As if it were an apparition, groups of retirees who walk through the SA -322 road next to Retortillo Baths (Salamanca) are stopped, perplexed, at the offices of Spain Berkeley Minera SA, the Australian parent, just built in through the oaks. These are the first visible sign Retortillo – Holiness project; a plan that, when materialized, will house one of the few open pit uranium mines in Europe.

The farm is located just one kilometer from the resort, amidst a Mediterranean forest of great ecological and environmental value. In fact, there are two European directives that protect the area within Special Protection Area for Birds and Site of Community Importance Networks. But these have not prevented the Ministry of Environment of the Junta de Castilla y León delivered, on September 25, 2013, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in favor of the project. A “hasty and incomprehensible decision,” said Jose Luis Moreno, president of the Stop Uranium platform; colliding and also with prudence itself has had the European Commission to promote the project, which has decided to open an information package in response to the complaint filed on 30 August, Stop Uranium. This platform Berkerley complaint “fails the General Environment Programme EU 2020”, which aims to “natural capital is protected and enhanced, in addition to the health and welfare of citizens are safeguarded”. The Commission is still collecting data and has not decided whether to take the record below.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) is competent to require the company to meet the protocols governing such operations. And if you think the dossier is incomplete, he does know. This occurred on March 5, when asked to Berkeley that would make corrections after noting ” significant deficiencies “. He goes on to say that waste is radioactive and should be treated as such; not as claimed by the company, believes that no more waste and so could place them outside or in the hole to stop the extraction of ore. ” What the CSN asks is a treatment similar to that required for nuclear waste,” says Gabriel Risco spokesman Equo in the region.

Portuguese also were interested in the mine, the border is just 50 km. Environmental groups from both countries met recently in Villavieja (village in which part of the site) to report the damage to farms like this, in which radioactive ore is handled, can cause to people and the environment.

Although the point is fear. Fear that is not usually expressed, but alter the face when someone pronounce words like uranium radioactivity, Fukushima, Chernobyl or cancer. Moreover, the population fears that prevent them from mine to market their livestock (Iberian pigs and cows morucha, mostly) or oak forests, cork and oak trees die from the effects of radioactive dust. For now, only to open the mine, more than 25,000 of these trees should be uprooted.

The vein of uranium, 4.3 kilometers long, almost one meter wide and 120 meters deep, is split in two by the Yeltes river, whose bed and banks are protected by European directives. The company plans to fence 2,517 hectares, of which 240 will be occupied by the mining footprint, tailings ponds and ten; large liquid containers by the method of static leaching facilitate extraction of uranium oxide (U3O8). This system requires enormous amounts of water, mixed with chemicals such as sulfuric acid, caustic soda or hydrochloric acid, mineral enable decanting.

The site, according to Berkeley, home to five million kilos of U3O8 that ” the current market price in the long term,” says Bellon, ” would be worth over 430 million euros.” “The mine, we understand, is very cost effective,” concludes Bellón. That despite the fact that the life expectancy is 10 years and the investment is estimated at 354 million euros.