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Retortillo mine exploitation of uranium in Spain-Portugal border, Spain


The Retortillo uranium mine project near Salamanca is looking to expand its area. Opposition includes very active municipalities, and two local ejos working together against the project.  ENUSA and Berkeley signed an agreement in December 2008 according to which Berkeley should make a report about the viability of the exploitation of uranium in the territories of Villavieja de Yeltes and Retortillo, Salamanca, Spain, near the frontier with Portugal. In October 2011, Berkeley signed an agreement of cooperation with the town halls of Retortillo and Villavieja de Yeltes about the mine exploitation of uranium deposit and regarding a project of construction of a factory of uranium concentrates. Berkeley has deeply divided the local inhabitants opinions with the promise of offering local people between 100–200 jobs, which was appreciated by them, considering the high share of unemployed people. On September 25th 2013, the Junta (regional government) of Castilla y León issued a favourable Environmental Impact Statement of the Uranium mining project. The Nuclear Spanish Safety Council on 5th March 2014 informed Berkeley that the company submitted dossier was incomplete because the waste is radioactive and it must be treated as such, but finally Berkeley obtained the authorization as first category radioactive installation. The first category radioactive installations activities imply the highest potential radiological risk, such as the facilities producing uranium, thorium and their compounds; the facilities that produce natural uranium; the facilities that use radioactive sources for industrial irradiation uses and the complex facilities that use high radioactive substances stocks or produce irradiation bunches with such a high frequency energy that causes a significant radiological impact.

Later, in April 2016 the Spanish National High Court admitted the administrative appeal against the resolution of authorization of the project as first category radioactive installation, process still ongoing. In February 2017, Stop Uranio filed a complaint with the Salamanca Public Prosecutor Office since Berkeley may have committed an environmental crime punished by the Spanish Criminal Code in the article 325 considering the fact this company had logged some holm oaks illegally. During the last five years the local residents of the towns encompassed in the region of Ciudad Rodrigo, especially the neighbours of Retortillo and Villavieja de Yeltes have been opposing the project of uranium mine, and they are still opposing at the present time. They have created an environmental NGO against the project called “Stop Uranio” and they are working with “Salamanca Antinuclear” (NGO from Salamanca) and Ecologistas en Acción (National NGO). For instance, they have organized many open-air meetings and demonstrations and they bring legal and judicial appeals against the Spanish and Castilla y Leon Administrations decisions. Regarding this last issue, Berkeley has allegedly  been stalking some environmental activists infringing on their fundamental rights to speak out and to inform.

One of the most remarkable fears of this project is that it is going to be able to affect negatively the market price of livestock such as pigs or morucha (a type of Salamanca bovine meat). Moreover, cork oaks, holm oaks and other types of oak may be affected. Finally,  we cannot forget that the project is located near the frontier of Portugal which would affect some types of wildlife and natural habitats protected by European laws – Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAB) and Site of Community Importance (SIC) – and would pollute the Douro River (the Douro river supplies water to 2 million people) as the Yeltes River that is tributary of Huebra River, flows out in Douro river. The Portuguese Government has not been officially communicated by Spanish authorities neither it has agreed on this project.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Retortillo mine exploitation of uranium in Spain-Portugal border, Spain
State or province:Salamanca
Location of conflict:Retortillo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details

4.4 M pounds/year

Level of Investment:82,300,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2011
Company names or state enterprises:Berkeley Minera España S.A (Berkeley) from Australia
Apollo group from Australia
Relevant government actors:Junta de Castilla y León
Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Turismo
Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear.
Ayuntamientos de Villavieja de Yeltes y Retortillo.
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Commission (Euratom and other Directives and Regulations)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Spanish ecologist Party-EQUO; “Platform Stop Uranium"; Spanish Environmental NGO “Ecologistas en Acción”; Spanish NGO “Salamanca Antinuclear” and other Spanish Political Parties. Moreover, Portuguese Association of Uranium Mining Areas. Quercus. WWF.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsRadioactive pollution.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsPotential. Cancer, Genetic Alteration, cardiovascular problems and fetal abnormalities.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of livelihood, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Other socio-economic impactsLost of jobs in the Spa of Retortillo; the decrease in price of marketed livestock such as pigs and morucha. Division inside communities.


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Project is working
Development of alternatives:Avoid the exploration of uranium mines
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project was not cancelled and the enterprise is starting to bring down centenary holm oaks.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The lawfulness of the uranium mine is being examined by the Spanish National Audience

The Prosecutor of Salamanca is considering the commission of Environmental Crime

Retortillo inhabitants opinions are divided

The inhabitants of Retortillo (Salamanca) report the radioactive risk

400 people Demonstration

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

La Sexta Noticias. The Spanish High Court is analizing the lawfulness of the uranium mine in Salamanca

Meta information

Contributor:Miriam Ruiz (with Ecologistas en Acción and Lucia Oliveira). Marta Conde, Jose Ramon Barrueco (Stop Uranio).
Last update22/10/2017



Raúl Rejón,

Salamanca Project -Resource Location - Berkeley


Salamanca 24 horas, Jorge G. Trevin,

Jorge G. Trevin, Salamanca 24 horas,