Understanding Public Perceptions of a New Pit Lake in As Pontes, Spain

The introduction of coal mining in the 1940’s transformed the landscape and economy of As Pontes, Spain. Industrialisation created successive waves of economic and population booms, but when the mining slowed in the 1990s, the region experienced economic depression. Real and perceived social divisions and environmental abuses on the part of the mining company remained entrenched in people’s memories. This paper provides an overview of the factors that likely affected community acceptance of the new pit lake in As Pontes, Spain. Pit lakes are often attractive closure options for companies, and community opinion of pit lakes can influence pit end use. Community perceptions of the pit lake before, during, and after filling were assessed using case studies, interviews, and focus groups, and by tracking news events and analysing internet forums. The results broadly indicated high community acceptance of the pit lake by people residing in the town. However, interviews revealed that acceptance of the pit lake was influenced by previous experiences with the mining company; company employees and local politicians were more likely to be positive about the benefits of the lake, whereas those not directly affiliated with the lake (long-term residents, remote villagers, school teachers) were more likely to have a negative view of it. Thus, technical success is not the only factor that influences community acceptance of pit lakes and company closure plans. Unresolved social issues can also influence the way certain people perceive the new landscape, regardless of ecological and aesthetic impacts.

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