Aznalcóllar abandons the green dream and votes to allow industry

Aznalcóllar is a small town in Seville which used to have an enormous mine on its outskirts, until the dam holding back millions of cubic meters of poisonous waste broke in 1998 and polluted beyond recovery almost 5,000 ha of natural land either side of 63 km of river, including a vast swathe of Doñana natural park.

How the dam looked after it broke
How the dam looked after it broke

The “super dam” held back the waste waters from several major mines, sunk in search of gold, zinc, copper and silver. It’s considered to be the largest man made environmental disaster in Spanish history.

The mines have been closed by the central government, and hundreds of millions of euros sunk into recuperating the destroyed environment.

And as a result, some years ago Aznalcóllar voted to become the first “green” town in Spain. No polluting industry would be allowed to operate within the borders of the town. Townhall land was given over to green renewable energy, and the green wing of the IU party captured the townhall.

Until now. Because due to the devastating economic recession, with over half the towns youth unemployed and the population dropping as citizens see no other option but to move to seek work elsewhere, the townhall – still under the control of the Greens- has quietly voted to lift restrictions and allow industry back into Aznalcóllar.

The Mayor explains that the move isn’t as great as may be assumed. “For example, a garage and a white goods recycling point had both submitted plans to open in town, but because of green restrictions they couldn’t. The modifications will allow this limited industry to reopen within our town” he explains. [Adsense-B]

But it’s a huge step from a town which just a few years ago had voted to become the greenest town in Spain.

It’s also complete bollocks – in the last five months, three international companies (British, Australian and Canadian) have submitted requests to the Junta de Andalucia to reopen mining works in the paralysed zones.

Canadian company First Quantum Minerals, which operates Europes largest open cast mine in Galicia, wants to go after the Zinc in the mountains and says there are some 38 million tons of the stuff underneath the town.

Environmental groups have said (Ecologistas en Acción) that in principle there is no reason why the mines should not be reopened, but as proper mines and not open cast mines, and with all proper environmental processes followed. [Adsense-C]

And the Mayor of Aznalcóllar has said that for the sake of jobs in his town, he is willing to allow the mines to reopen, but under 21st century conditions, not the savage mistakes of the past.