Spanish protests against open pit quartz mine

by Lorraine Williamson
quartz mine protests

Citizens in the municipalities of Barbolla, Sotillo, Castillejo de Mesleón, Cerezo de Arriba, Cerezo de Abajo and Duruelo in the province of Segovia in Spain are protesting against the authorisation of the opening of an open pit quartz mine to gain silicon. The mining would cover 4.000 hectares and affect the environment and its water cycle. 

In July opponents presented more than 3,700 allegations at the regional government of Castilla and Leon. The purpose of the mine would be to obtain silicon for construction materials, computer chips and solar cells. The company Explotación de Rocas Industriales y Minerales, S.A (ERIMSA) from La Coruña, has requested authorisation from the Junta de Castilla y León. ERIMSA is a subsidiary of the Norwegian company Elkem, whose biggest shareholder is the Chinese group National Bluestar. Elkem is making products for the global market. 

Critical Raw Materials Act 

In March 2023 the European Commission presented a proposal to ensure the EU’s access to a secure, diversified, affordable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials, as silicon. The Commission wants to reduce the EU’s current dependencies on just one or a few countries. Moreover, the idea is to gain more raw materials for the European market in Europe. But how these plans relate to this European proposal is not clear.  

Cogesa Expats


The quartz is found in a superficial layer of earth of 1.50 metres. After extracting the quartz from the earth the rest of the earth is returned to the ground. According to the company, the environment will recover completely. But ecologists say that the mining project leads to drastic changes in the soil structure and in its soil porosity, since all particles larger than 80 millimetres in diameter are extracted. Furthermore, due to these changes, the water system will also change. The mining area is a water-rich area where the source of the Duero River can be found. 

Esther Rasenberg, 

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