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Parliamentary questions
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5 February 2019
P-000698-19
Question for written answer P-000698-19
to the Commission
Rule 130
Nuno Melo (PPE)

 Subject:  Environmental risk to the River Zêzere
 Answer in writing 

A study by the University of Porto has detected high levels of arsenic in a tailings dam that is part of a slagheap at the Panasqueira mine — now disused after being in service for decades — at Cabeço do Pião in Fundão, Castelo Branco, about 50 km from the source of the River Zêzere.

The slagheap contains an estimated 4.4 million tonnes of sludge with dangerous levels of arsenic and is at risk of collapsing and thus polluting the Zêzere river that supplies drinking water to Lisbon.

If the dam were to breach, hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of highly arsenic-contaminated waste material that has flowed down the Zêzere river to the Cabril dam would be released downstream, with devastating consequences for the environment.

The local population is exposed to serious environmental risks. The chances of ingestion, inhalation or dermal exposure means that they are a high carcinogenic risk group.

— Is the Commission aware of this situation?

— What action can the Commission take in response to the very real risk of this tailings dam collapsing towards the River Zêzere, as Portugal’s Instituto Superior Técnico has reported on several occasions?

Original language of question: PT 
Last updated: 13 February 2019Legal notice