Answer given by Mr Vella on behalf of the Commission
The thresholds laid down in the Portuguese legislation on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the determination of the projects for open-cast mining projects, including for the extraction of kaolin, which should be made subject to an EIA procedure are the same as those provided by the EIA Directive — surface area of more than 25 hectares. Moreover, the Portuguese legislation takes into account the cumulative impacts of all the similar activities located in a perimeter of 1 km. It follows that the Portuguese Law has not exceeded the margin of discretion authorised by the directive.
The Court of Justice has held on several occasions that the practise of splitting projects in order to circumvent the obligation to carry out an EIA is unlawful. According to the Court, where several projects taken together may have significant effects on the environment their impacts should be assessed as a whole.
The information provided does not identify any concrete case of potential splitting of kaolin mining projects or of lack of compliance with the thresholds provided by the Portuguese legislation on EIA. In any case, given that the Portuguese Law seems in line with the requirements of the EIA Directive, the Commission considers that, on the basis of the information currently available, it is not justified to initiate an investigation and that this situation should be monitored by the Portuguese authorities.
-  Decree-Law 151-B/2013 of 31 October 2013 (DR I, No 211, 31.10.2013).
-  Directive 2011/92/EU of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (OJ L 26 of 28.1.2012).
-  See Case C-147/07, paragraph 44; Case C-205/08, paragraph 53; Case C-244/12, paragraph 21.