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Title: Conflitos ambientais e progresso técnico na indústria mineira e metalúrgica em Portugal (1858-1938)
Authors: Guimarães, Paulo Eduardo
Keywords: Tecnologia mineira e ambiente
Hidrometalurgia (Portugal, séc. XIX)
Conflitos ambientais e inovação técnica
Issue Date: 31-May-2016
Publisher: CETEM - Centro de Tecnologia Mineral (Brasil)
Citation: Guimarães, Paulo E. - "Conflitos ambientais e progresso técnico na indústria mineira e metalúrgica em Portugal (1858-1938)". In Paulo E. Guimarães; Juan D. Pérez Cebada (eds.), Conflitos Ambientais na Indústria Mineira e Metalúrgica: o passado e o presente, Évora e Rio de Janeiro, CICP/CETEM, 2016, pp. 157-183.
Abstract: This chapter explores the relationship between environmental conflicts and technical progress, trying to understand, in the case of large mines of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, in Alentejo, how emerging environmental problems conditioned the performance or led to the search for alternative technical solutions, taking as chronological limit for this observation the beginning of World War II. In the absence of the archives of the companies, the research was based on existing administrative documents in the state archives (mining engineers reports, the licensing of mining activities), on reports and documents published in specialized mining press, in particular, the Bulletin of the Ministry of Public Works, Trade and Industry, the Journal of Public Works, Trade and Industry (both in Portuguese), and finally in the local press. Despite that limitation, the information available shows that in global competition markets, the success of the British enterprise in Santo Domingo had the active search for new technical solutions for the creation and adaptation of existing knowledge to local problems in order to maximize the mineral resources available. The early development of the hydrometallurgical processes for the treatment of poor ores, named ‘natural cementation’, can be explained as the way these companies tried to solve problems of competitiveness, boosting economies of scale. Thus, they transferred the environmental costs previously limited to agriculture to more fragile social groups, the poor fishermen of Guadiana River and of Vila Real de Santo António. Therefore, the hydrometallurgy of pyrites was developed locally, pioneered in Santo Domingo that allowed the survival and expansion of the British company from the late 1870s, that is, at a time when most small mines shut since they were not able to compete globally. Through different consented and regulated processes (judicial), through conflict or parliamentary mediation, the State imposed exceptionally additional costs to companies, either for compensation, the imposing the application of remediation measures to reduce the environmental damage in some cases, thus contributing to derail some projects. These cases suggest that the interaction between local conflicts, corporate behavior and technological progress proves to be complex. This article aims to contribute to the debate on economic and social history between the environment and technological progress, arguing that the fixed costs and economic imponderable social risks were factors that encouraged the companies to search for new solutions and to introduce innovations since that would allow the expansion of their activity. In this process the companies sometimes faced environmental dilemmas and unforeseen costs with consequences on the economy of firms. The nature of the knowledge needed to address the environmental problems they created, however, is of a very different nature from that knowledge needed to face the environmental burdens that were inherent to the development of its activity.
Type: bookPart
Appears in Collections:CICP - Publicações - Capítulos de Livros

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