Locals in Sorbas and Bédar are concerned over the future of the Sorbas yeso quarries after it was revealed that the Junta may be preparing a “dirty tricks” plan to renew the concession for a further 30 years, despite them being in a special environmental zone.
In short, the three yeso quarries in question ( Majadas Viejas I, II & Hornos Ibéricos (Los Feos)) are all sited within sensitive ecological zones. Karst en Yesos de Sorbas has been mooted as a future natural park, along with the surrounding Sierra Cabrera zone. The first steps towards this were taken last year when the national Government ordered the area to become a Zone of Special Conservation, under EU environmental laws. Over a thousand protected and semi-protected species of plants, insects and animals can be found in this unique semi-desert area, as well as the fantastic underground cave systems that are unique in Europe (but mainly closed to the public due to the mining nearby).
However, the mines were there before the protection order and so are allowed to run out their mining tenders, along with any renewals. The question now is – will the Junta renew the concessions for a further 30 years?
The mining tenders are run by multinational companies which own several other concessions in this area of Andalucia, but they do not intend to exploit them until they have exhausted the current quarries. Therefore, three years ago they applied for the renewal. The Junta had 8 months to reply, but so far, no official reply has come out.
A number of local neighbourhood groups and ecologists have all presented arguments against the renewal, as has the national Ministry of the Environment, but the Junta continues to ignore the issue. The fear from the pressure groups is that the Junta is simply waiting for the deadline to approach before rushing through the renewal authorisations as quickly as possible, ignoring any protests due to the deadline.
Condor, a local ecologist group, says it is pathetic that the Junta de Andalucia is ignoring the judicial process that it established with its own mining law, and asks how a government can pass a law, only to ignore it when it suits its own commercial needs*. The group is threatening a joint lawsuit along with other groups if an answer is not forthcoming soon.
*Answer: because Andalucia is the “cortijo” of the PSOE, and we’re just the chickens pecking in the grounds!